GAITHERSBURG, Md., March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Sodexo USA today filed a civil lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other defendants under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, to stop the illegal campaign of extortion that the SEIU has been waging in the U.S. for over a year.
“This is about protecting the Company’s business and the rights of our employees to vote freely about union representation,” said Robert Stern, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Sodexo USA. “We work constructively with unions every day but the SEIU has crossed the line by breaking the law. We will not tolerate the SEIU’s tactics any longer. Their campaign jeopardizes our Company and our employees’ jobs, and ultimately would rob our employees of their right to vote.”
Sodexo USA has filed the lawsuit seeking to halt the SEIU’s extortionate threats and barrage of unlawful tactics. The complaint alleges acts of SEIU blackmail, vandalism, trespass, harassment, and lobbying law violations designed to steer business away from Sodexo USA and harm the company.
Sodexo USA recognizes the value of union activity and has built positive relationships with more than 30 different unions. Over 15 percent of Sodexo USA’s workforce is unionized, which is more than twice the national average for the private sector, and the Company has more than 300 collective bargaining agreements. Despite this positive record, the SEIU has engaged in a vicious campaign to force the Company into broadly recognizing the SEIU to the exclusion of other unions without allowing its employees in the U.S. to exercise their right to vote for or against the SEIU in a federally supervised secret ballot election.
The complaint alleges that the SEIU, in face to face meetings, threatened Sodexo USA’s executives that it would harm Sodexo USA’s business unless they gave in to the union, and then carried out its threats through egregious behavior, including:
- throwing plastic roaches onto food being served by Sodexo USA at a high profile event;
- scaring hospital patients by insinuating that Sodexo USA food contained bugs, rat droppings, mold and flies;
- lying to interfere with Sodexo USA business and sneaking into elementary schools to avoid security;
- violating lobbying laws to steer business away from Sodexo USA, even at the risk of costing Sodexo USA employees their jobs; and
- harassing Sodexo USA employees by threatening to accuse them of wrongdoing.
The complaint, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, seeks an injunction against the SEIU and its locals and executives, as well as monetary damages to be determined by the court.