Court Hangs Up on Labor Dispute

By Tom Kennedy

The Sixth Circuit recently held that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) does not apply to an automated “robo-call” campaign by the Service Employees International Union (“Union”). The Union, in the midst of a labor dispute with Ashland Hospital Corporation, tried to pressure Ashland by contacting private residents in their home with a prerecorded message offering to help them connect to the hospital to express concerns over the treatment of hospital employees. At the push of a button, the Union would connect the person to, e.g., the CEO’s direct line at the hospital. The CEO got 536 calls in 2 days, overwhelming its main telephone lines. Ashland responded by suing the Union under the TCPA. The court found no violation of the TCPA. The calls to the hospital were all live calls from real people; Ashland was not a recipient of any direct telephone robo-communication from the Union. Ashland Hosp. Corp. v. SEIU, District 1199 WV/KY/OH, No. 11-6006 (6th Cir. February 21, 2013).

Although the Union automated part of its corporate campaign and outsourced its calls to the surrounding residents, the employer has no TCPA claim, at least until the robots begin calling it directly.

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