NLRB Poised to Violate Workers’ Privacy to Promote More Unions

Crossroads GPS strongly opposes the National Labor Relations Board’s plan to force employers to provide the email addresses and telephone numbers of non-union employees to labor unions to allow organizers to harass workers about unionizing.  The NLRB’s latest union-boosting measure would be an unwelcome violation of employee privacy and should be rejected.

Under 43-year old NLRB precedent, employers must provide their employees’ home mailing addresses only when a union organizing election has been scheduled.  In June 2011, the NLRB proposed a rule to require the disclosure of e-mail addresses and telephone numbers as well.   In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, President Obama’s hand-picked NLRB Chairman, Mark Pearce, said that he would renew his push for this new rule.

Crossroads GPS opposes this further intrusion into American workers’ privacy.  The rule would require employers to turn over their private information without regard to whether workers consented to the disclosure.  This would violate core principles of disclosure and consent that, for example, prompted Congress to create the enormously-popular Do Not Call List.  Americans do not want to be harassed on the phone, by email and at home.  Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has said, “Many people simply do not want to be disturbed at home by work-related matters.”  United States Dep’t of Defense v. FLRA, 510 U.S. 487, 501 (1994).

Current law is more than adequate to enable unions to communicate with employees without violating their privacy.  Unions can send employees mail, set up websites, use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and engage in a wide variety of advocacy tactics that respect individual autonomy.  Technology gives unions far more opportunities to communicate with employees during an election period than ever before, but the spread of technology need not strip Americans of their personal privacy.  That means unions shouldn’t be empowered to phone employees against their will, spam them with unsolicited emails, and force them to receive (and possibly pay for) unwelcome text messages.

The risk that this rule will cause Americans to be harassed in their homes is especially poignant given the widespread evidence of corruption in certain unions. Non-union employees can justifiably fear that union advocates will misuse their private information, but under the NLRB’s rule, they would have no right to opt out of such invasive, government-mandated data-sharing.

The NLRB, already operating with a constitutionally-questionable quorum due to President Obama’s “recess” appointment fiasco, should shelve this effort immediately.  And if they don’t, Congress needs to step in to protect the personal privacy rights of workers and their families.

For more information, please contact Steven Duffield, Vice President for Policy at Crossroads GPS, at [email protected].