Saturday, July 3, 2004

2 unions sued over privacy

By Mike Boyer
Enquirer staff writer

A federal privacy law inspired by the 1989 murder of an actress by a stalker is being used in a lawsuit by Cintas Corp. workers in Pennsylvania against the two unions seeking to represent them.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia Monday against the laundry workers union UNITE and the Teamsters union says they illegally obtained non-public information about where the workers lived from Pennsylvania motor vehicle records in violation of the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

The law limits access to personal information in motor vehicle records. It was inspired by the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer by a stalker, who used motor vehicle records to find her.

Eight workers at Cintas' Allentown, Pa., plant and five of their relatives said union organizers contacted them at home after using license plates to find their addresses.

The suit, which also claims invasion of privacy, seeks monetary penalties, undetermined punitive damages and legal costs.

UNITE, which has been waging an extensive campaign for more than a year to force the Mason uniform supplier to recognize it and the Teamsters as bargaining agents for the workers, called the suit baseless.

"We have no doubt that Cintas is involved in this lawsuit,'' the union said. "It is part of Cintas' campaign to interfere with workers' learning about the benefits of unionization.''

A spokesman for Cintas, which has accused the unions of worker harassment in the past, wasn't available for comment Friday. The company has maintained it is up to employees to decide in a supervised election whether they want union representation.

Separately, UNITE this week said a racial discrimination suit filed against Cintas in California in January has been expanded to include sexual discrimination claims and additional plaintiffs.


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