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Just Say No to Abuse of Employee Information

Just Say No to Abuse of Employee Information

The following remarks were provided to the Board of Education on August 15, 2018 by BFT President Cathy Campbell.

Dear Board Members and Superintendent Evans,

I’m here tonight to urge this Board to take a strong stance against sharing employee information with outside organizations.  As you know, BUSD has received an information request from the Freedom Foundation demanding sensitive information, such as every employee’s physical work location, seniority date and union membership status.  We call upon BUSD to reject this request, and others like it, and to lead on this issue in the way that other districts, such as LAUSD and Placer Union, are doing.  If they can do it in LA, we can do it here in Berkeley.

BUSD should not be providing this kind of information to any outside organization whether it is the Freedom Foundation, or a vendor trying to sell financial products.  Providing this information will open the door to employees being barraged with emails from commercial interests, using the work email that they are required to monitor.  We do not want our employees spending their time sorting Spam and Junk email, nor do we want them to be the target of sales efforts.

In addition, BUSD has a solemn obligation to protect employee safety and privacy.  Providing the name and work location of all employees will violate this obligation.

BUSD has many grounds upon which to reject the specific request from the Freedom Foundation by applying the “Catch-All” exemption in the California Public Records Act.  As you know, BUSD can reject any request where they determine that the public interest served by nondisclosure outweighs any interest served by disclosure.

In this case, the Districts has a strong public interest in not having a private outside organization flood employees with extraneous, non-work related emails probing employees personal financial and associational affairs, and in not having an outside organization disrupt student learning with in-person visits to school sites, as the Freedom Foundation had made clear they will do if this information is provided.

There is no public interest served by the Freedom Foundation request.  Their sole aim is to identify and target union members at work, and to influence union members regarding their personal and private decisions to associate with the union.  Because the strong interest in non-disclosure outweighs any interest in disclosure, the District should reject this information request.

In addition, this request from the Freedom Foundation is clearly a backdoor attempt by an outside party to obtain a union membership list.  The Freedom Foundation has repeatedly and publicly declared that it is seeking to identify and persuade public employees to stop paying membership due to public employee unions.  Disclosure of the requested information will intrude upon closely held and intimate associational rights of union members, and violate the District’s obligation under the law to stay neutral in employee decisions regarding union membership.

Such an intrusion into associational privacy is only justified by the “demonstration of a very …compelling state interest” (see Britt v. Superior Court), and as you know no such state interest exists here. 

A public employee’s union membership is constitutionally protected political speech.  BUSD will be violating this right, and the California Educational Employment Relations Act, if this information is provided. 

BUSD needs to protect employees’ associational privacy rights and avoid becoming complicit in deterring or discouraging union membership. 

As you know, LAUSD, Placer Union and presumably other school districts have rejected the Freedom Foundation request.  LAUSD specifically called out their obligation to protect employee confidentiality and safety.  In Placer Union the district clearly stated that the benefits of non-disclosure outweighed those of disclosure.

BUSD needs to take a similar strong and principled stand with regard to this request and to stand with your employees.  This is Berkeley and we can lead on this issue.  Your employees are counting on you to do the right thing and to weigh their safety, privacy and constitutional rights squarely in this decision.