How often do you see a labor union get taken to court over their shady, strong-arm tactics and actually be held to task? If your answer was never then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was dragged before a jury in Houston this summer and accused of waging a smear campaign designed to “kill” a cleaning company because they wouldn’t let them organize their workers based on a secret ballot. The decision is now in and the SEIU has been ordered to pay damages in excess of five million dollars. (Houston Chronicle)
A Harris County jury on Tuesday awarded a Houston commercial cleaning firm $5.3 million in damages, finding that a labor union’s aggressive organizing campaign went too far when it maligned the reputation of the company. It opens the door for more employers to sue unions over hardball tactics often used in membership drives and contract disputes.
Professional Janitorial Services of Houston (PJS) was the target of the smear campaign and they aren’t going to be satisfied with just this one victory and a five million dollar check. As Texas Scorecard reports, PJS described the SEIU as “a corrupt organization that’s rotten to its core” and said they’re looking to get the union thrown out of the state entirely.
Throughout the four week trial, jurors learned of false allegations, threatening tactics, and an all-out smear campaign waged by the SEIU against the janitorial company for one simple reason— PJS refused to allow the union to organize its workforce of janitors without a secret ballot election.
In a statement, PJS added that they “will now ask local prosecutors to investigate apparent perjury by union officials and an attorney who testified in the trial, and will increase its efforts with state legislators to remove the SEIU from eligibility in state-provided union dues collection programs.”
The PJS trial was the first time the union’s tactics were brought in front of a jury, as other companies have opted to settle their cases and avoid a trial.
The tactics employed by the union here were truly sinister as you’ll see in the background information. PJS demonstrated that the labor union sent thousands of letters to the firm’s customers claiming that they were engaged in disreputable labor tactics. For “proof” they relied on fraudulent and misleading documents approved by SEIU lawyers with the proviso that they include the word “alleged” before all of the fabricated accusations. Rather than settling out of court, the SEIU battled the lawsuit for 10 years in an effort to prevent the public from getting a look at their “campaign manual” and other documents which encouraged union leaders to violate laws and “kill PJS” as they described it.
I’m sure there will be appeals and years of additional legal maneuvers before the SEIU has to pay up or has their in-state activities curbed in Texas, but that’s not really the point here. While PJS clearly deserves compensation for the harm done to their business, the public has at least been given the opportunity to take a good look at the inside workings of the union. If you own a business and don’t knuckle under and allow the union to take over your shop, they will go to any lengths to punish you with little or no concern for the law. These guys operate on a business model which more closely resembles the mafia than any sort of public interest group.
Congratulations to PJS on their long, hard fought victory. Here’s hoping you actually see that money someday.