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Why is the U.S. Post Office Sharing Personal Information with Labor Unions

Labor unions may have been given access to the private information of 68 million citizens who received free COVID-19 test kits from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The permission to sensitive data was discovered by Americans for Fair Treatment (AFFT), a nonprofit organization that educates public employees about their rights in a unionized workplace.  

After President Joe Biden committed to making 1 billion at-home tests free to Americans, roughly 70 million households requested them through the USPS website. 

When filling out an online form to receive four free COVID-19 test kits, the USPS presented — in plain view — its privacy statement that specifically stated they will not disclose information to third parties without consent unless legally required. However, AFFT noticed a few exceptions including law enforcement for purposes of investigating fraud, USPS auditors and, most shockingly, labor organizations. 

Last February, AFFT filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the USPS asking for all records concerning the privacy statement. They requested records that “reflect USPS’s decision to depart from using its default Privacy Act notice” published on its website and why it was suddenly allowing for the information collected through its application portal to be disclosed to labor unions. 

USPS responded to the request stating there were, “no responsive records” but later released redacted emails that only revealed names and time stamps.  

In an interview with Daily Mail.com, AFFT CEO Elisabeth Messenger stated that, since filing the FOIA request, the USPS has added this same privacy statement when customers make purchases online; however, AFFT claimed that USPS has not been entirely forthcoming, stating in a lawsuit filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court in April 2022, “USPS conducted an inadequate search and reached an arbitrary and capricious decision not to disclose more information.”  

AFFT’s lawyer, David Dorey said USPS officials “are avoiding our client’s simple questions. Why does USPS say it can without consent share Americans’ personal information with union officials, and what has it actually done with that information?” 

Dorsey said both sides have filed all briefs and are currently waiting for a ruling from the court. 

Messenger noted that if personal data is handed over to unions by USPS, the data could be used for political campaigning. 

Coincidentally, over 200,000 USPS employees are represented by the American Postal Workers Union.  

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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