By Sean Redmond
On September 15, Sodexo USA announced an agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) settling a racketeering lawsuit (Sodexo v. SEIU) the company had brought against the union earlier this year. The suit alleged that the SEIU was engaged in a deliberate effort to publicly disparage the company to pressure management into accepting card check organizing for approximately 80,000 employees. Under the terms of the settlement, Sodexo agreed to drop its RICO lawsuit, while the SEIU agreed to end its negative publicity campaign against the company.
The big question that comes to mind is, why was the SEIU so quick to drop its campaign against Sodexo? After all, it had claimed that the campaign was about “justice” for workers and human rights. The answer is likely one word: discovery.
Some pretty revealing information about the SEIU’s standard operating tactics had already come to light during the initial adjudication of Sodexo’s case. For example, Sodexo obtained a copy of the SEIU’s “
,” which spells out how the union develops a strategic plan to pressure employers into acceding to its demands. According to Sodexo’s court filings, these tactics included stunts like throwing plastic roaches on food being served at a medical conference; lying to hospital patients by telling them food served by Sodexo had rat feces, bugs, mold and flies; and deliberately trying to steer business away from the company.
Once a federal court rejected SEIU’s attempt to dismiss the RICO complaint, the way was clear for Sodexo to engage in formal discovery, which would have allowed them to plumb deep into SEIU’s archives of letters, e-mails, financial records, and internal memos. Evidently SEIU leadership had more than a bit of trepidation over what this might reveal. Enough that it was worth dropping the campaign against Sodexo into which they had poured so much time, effort and moral outrage.
Of course, if SEIU wants to avoid further embarrassment, what really ought to be dropped is their penchant for the objectionable tactics revealed in this case.