Republicans Squash Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s Attempt To Provide Real Privacy To Workers.
Not long ago when you left the office for the day that meant that you were done for the day. Then came pagers and cell phones, where you could be immediately contacted even when you were not at work. Then came smartphones and the ability to check work related emails from anywhere in the world. Now many employers provide a smartphone for their workers to allow them to check their message outside of normal work hours.
Pew Research reports that nearly 70% of workers use their smartphone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA / Tablet) to check work related emails over the weekend. However providing employees with a smartphone also allows employers to track employee’s movements with the phone’s built in GPS.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) disagreed with employers being able to track employees phones when they are not working . There is no federal privacy law protecting workers from their employers tracking them. Currently only a handful of states even have protections.
“It is reasonable to imagine legitimate business purposes for using GPS tracking technology during business hours – while an employee is carrying out their work responsibilities. It is simply wrong, however, that this tracking should carry over into the employee’s personal time – into their personal life. Certainly, not all employers would take advantage in this way, but the fact that there is no privacy law to protect employees from such behavior is indefensible,” said Shea-Porter.
The so-called ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was one of three anti-worker bills considered during today’s markup, that would further tilt the playing field against workers seeking to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they have convened 28 hearings and markups in the Committee on Education and the Workforce aimed at undermining workers’ rights to bargain for a better life, replacing the once bipartisan recognition of the central role of workers in the American economy and democracy with relentless partisan attacks.
“My amendment seeks to improve this situation by offering a basic level of privacy protection for the employees of businesses that seek to use the lopsided process established under this bill,” she added.
However, partisanship in the committee prevailed over the privacy of workers and the amendment failed.
It is ironic that Shea-Porter’s amendment to the ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was rejected as the basis of the bill is “to protect workers privacy” by prohibiting employers from providing personal contact information about their employees to union organizers.
It is obvious that this bill is more about blocking union organizing efforts and less about workers privacy.