Opinion

Jury Awards Significant Damages Against Big Labor’s Defamation Campaign

Bullying and intimidation tactics – that’s what we’ve come to expect of Big Labor today.  Last week in Texas, a jury awarded $5.3 million in damages to Texas-based Professional Janitorial Services of Houston (PJS) after a local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was found to have waged a campaign of misinformation and defamation against them.

SEIU Local 5 had been trying to unionize Houston’s large janitorial companies through their “justice for janitors” campaign for years, and but for the Professional Janitorial Services (PJS), they were successful.  PJS remained their final hold out – causing them to resort to nefarious and even illegal behavior.

When Local 5 failed to win a union election at PJS, they began a coordinated attack of disparagement and harassment.  Their goal was to “cost PJS money” and “cost PJS accounts,” according to emails obtained during discovery.  They sent letters to companies that contracted with them, circulated defamatory flyers and staged disruptive demonstrations at properties where PJS worked.  They alleged labor violations, which were later found to be fabricated.  They cost PJS business and they damaged their reputation.  This went on for years.

Seeking legal recourse, PJS sued SEIU Local 5 in 2007 for “harassing and intimidating our customers along with companies and individuals that may be contemplating doing business with us.”  And last week, they won.

Those who study union tactics will acknowledge that these practices, while abhorrent, are nothing new.  In fact, they’re taken right from a page out of the SEIU playbook.  This reprehensible conduct is employed throughout the country to bully businesses and employees into forming collective bargaining units – and many times, it works.  Their own manual advises union officials to “disobey laws which are used to enforce injustice against working people” and goes as far as to advise unions to threaten managers with accusations of even racism or sexism.

But thankfully, the justice system is working. The Texas court decision is big – and should be spread far and wide, because, despite widespread claims of Big Labor abuse and defamation around the country, this is the first time that a jury has found the SEIU responsible and it sets a critical precedent.  Often in these cases, malice is exceedingly hard to prove.  Now that some light has been shed on these practices, other businesses who’ve faced similar intimidation and smear campaigns on the part of union bosses should be encouraged to come forward and fight back.  And it’s crucial that they do.

Unfortunately, instead of standing up for American workers and employee freedom, the Obama Administration has been enabling this bad behavior.  Obama’s reckless National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has passed rule after rule making it easier to forcibly unionize workers: by speeding up union elections, which makes it exceedingly more likely for union bosses to get a favorable result; by chilling business owners’ freedom of speech; by paving the path for the formation of micro-unions; and by undermining the relationship between employers and their employees.

Indeed, this administration’s track record, both through the NLRB and Department of Labor, has undermined decades of defined labor practices and statutes, and rigged the system entirely in favor of Big Labor.  Perhaps that’s why the SEIU continues dolling out millions of dollars to compliant politicians in the ultimate quid pro quo.

Enough is enough.  It’s time for Congress to act – and pass the Employee Rights Act, which would curb these dishonest tactics by union bosses and hand back the levers of power to American workers.  It time to put a stop to Big Labor’s assault on freedom.  And it is good to see courts ensuring union bosses are held to account for their actions.

Heather Greenaway is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WF