N.C. AT&T workers petition Supreme Court

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Jul 23, 2012


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A group of AT&T employees from North Carolina on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to review an identity theft case involving federal preemption.

Union officials allegedly publicly posted social security numbers of employees in apparent retaliation for resigning from union. A judge ruled that North Carolina identity protections laws did not apply in the case.

Communications Workers of America Local 3602 union president John Glenn allegedly posted the names and social security numbers of 33 AT&T employees on a publicly accessible bulletin board at the company's facility in Burlington, N.C. in the fall of 2007.

All the employees had opted out of union membership in accordance with North Carolina's right-to-work law. They resigned from CWA union membership and stopped paying union dues.

The North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act makes it is a serious offense for a business or nonprofit organization to publicly reveal names and social security numbers without authorization. Violators could be fined of up to $5,000 per violation.

AT&T employee Jason Fisher and 15 other employees filed a lawsuit against Local 3602 and its parent unions in state court in June 2008. They received free representation by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Both the trial court and the state court of appeals said that the union was exempt from North Carolina's identity theft law. Both courts adopted an argument that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the ITPA, and consequently union bosses may not be punished by state authorities for exposing the workers' private information to the public.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court does not overturn the lower courts' rulings, workers in North Carolina who exercise their right to refrain from union affiliation will be susceptible to this ugly type of union boss retaliation," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work.

"The Court's inaction would also make a mockery of federal labor law, which purports to 'protect' workers but really protects union boss intimidation, and could be used to overturn state laws protecting workers across the country."

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