Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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B&K Retained by International Unions to Fight Rash of Corporate RICO Lawsuits

Fall 2007

Beginning in the fall of 2007, several corporations in the midst of organizing and/or publicity campaigns launched by major international unions began filing civil lawsuits seeking treble damages under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act (or its state cognates).

These employers contend that the unions’ organizing and publicity efforts – including extensive speech and petitioning activities – amount to unlawful “racketeering.” (See New York Times opinion piece describing cases). B&K has been retained by several of the union defendants and is actively litigating on their behalf, including filing motions challenging the legal premises of these suits on numerous grounds — one of which is that much of the alleged “racketeering” activity is protected by the First Amendment. The case filed by pork-producer Smithfield Foods against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (No. 3:07CV641, E.D. Va. (Richmond)) is scheduled for trial this October. Cases filed by the Wackenhut Corporation, a major security services contractor, against the Service Employees International Union (No. 07-81090, S.D. Fla. (West Palm Beach)) (see article from ABA Journal); Bashas’, a grocer in the Southwestern U.S., also against the United Food and Commercial Workers, (No. CV 2007-023144, Superior Court of Maricopa County, Ariz.), and Cintas, a uniform supply company, against UNITE HERE International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (No. 1:2008cv02185, S.D.N.Y.) (see related story) remain in the pretrial stages.