APWU, Sister Postal Unions Win Right to Bargain Over Cyber Intrusions

June 2, 2015

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In a precedent-setting agreement approved by the National Labor Relations Board, the APWU and its sister postal unions won the right to bargain with the Postal Service over a massive data security breach that took place in 2014.

The historic May 19 settlement marks a win for unions in a new area of labor-management contention: Management’s responsibilities to protect employees’ personal information in the digital age. The recent rash of data security breaches at government agencies and large private-sector companies makes the victory significant for workers far beyond those employed by the USPS.

“The settlement affirms the union’s right to bargain on behalf of our members to ensure that management takes appropriate steps to protect their privacy,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.

The APWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Postal Service on Nov. 10, just days after learning of the cyber intrusion, citing the Postal Service’s refusal to bargain over management’s response to the breach and failure to respond to the union‘s request for information. 

As a result of the intrusion into postal records, many employees’ Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and injury claim information were accessed over a period of months. The Postal Service decided unilaterally to offer employees one year of free credit reporting.

Upon learning of the breach from then-Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the APWU demanded that the Postal Service bargain over the issue. The APWU also sought information from management about the extent of the breach; what postal officials knew; when they knew it, and what they did or failed to do to protect employee information. 

“The APWU is committed to protecting the rights of our members, including the right to have their personal information protected,” Dimondstein said.

The settlement agreement stipulates that:

  • The four postal unions (APWU, National Rural Letter Carriers Association, National Association of Letter Carriers, and National Postal Mail Handlers Union) will bargain jointly with the U.S. Postal Service over the impact and effects of the data breach.
  • A Notice to Employees must be posted on bulletin boards, Lite Blue, and read to employees at stand-up talks.
  • Bargaining will begin seven days after management receives notice from the unions of their desire to initiate talks.
  • The Postal Service must respond to requests for information within seven days of a request – either with the information or the date it will be provided.
  • The Postal Service will make “subject matter experts” on the breach available to the unions.
  • If the USPS fails to adhere to the terms of the settlement, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may reissue complaints it filed against the Postal Service in April. The complaints were filed in response to unfair labor practice charges filed by the APWU and the other postal unions. 

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