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Did you sign up to be monitored by the teachers union?

Yesterday, I went to the federal government’s new website to order COVID-19 tests for my family. I was directed to a site run by the United States Postal Service (USPS). After I filled in my information, I scrolled down the page to read the fine print. I don’t always do this, but I was curious to see what the government would do with my information. There was a short list of places where my information might be shared, mostly other government agencies, but I was very surprised to see “labor organization” on the list. Why would the government send my information to a labor organization?

Here’s the relevant part of the disclaimer:

“We do not disclose your information to third parties without your consent, except to act on your behalf or request, or as legally required. This includes the following limited circumstances: to a congressional office on your behalf; to agencies and entities to facilitate or resolve financial transactions; to a U.S. Postal Service auditor; for law enforcement purposes, to labor organizations as required by applicable law;…”

Intrigued, I clicked the link to view the full policy. Nowhere in the full Privacy Act Statement posted on the USPS website does it mention labor unions. Down a rabbit hole I went and not a single code referenced in the privacy statement made any mention of labor organizations. Why would they add this for COVID-19 tests? Is it even legal for them to change the policy like this?

I reached out to an attorney that specializes in labor issues and he confirmed the novel placement of labor organizations in this context. Elaborating, he said he couldn’t think of any law that requires the federal government to disclose our personal information to unions, unless you’re talking about unionized federal employees who the union might need information about their working conditions in advance of collective bargaining.  

None of that seems to apply here. Without asking for my occupation, they have no idea if my job is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

So why is the USPS providing this information to labor unions? What do the unions intend to do with our information? And, importantly, who will this inhibit from ordering tests?

Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.