Judge Clears Way for Sodexo to Present Evidence of Extortion in RICO Suit Against SEIU

You may recall that Sodexo slapped the SEIU with a RICO suit in March, citing the labor union’s “blackmail, vandalism, trespass, harassment, and lobbying law violations designed to steer business away from Sodexo USA and harm the company.” SEIU had filed a motion to dismiss the suit, but according to a press release just issued, a United States District Judge has denied the SEIU’s motion and ruled that Sodexo’s case can proceed.

“The court has validated our decision to file this lawsuit using the federal racketeering statute,” said Sodexo General Counsel Robert Stern. “This ruling clears the path to discovery and trial, allowing us to present evidence the SEIU has conspired to extort Sodexo by threatening financial damage unless we cave in to its demands. The SEIU’s campaign was designed to illegally threaten our company. We will continue to challenge the SEIU’s illegal behavior until it ends.”

The food services corporation has accused the SEIU of engaging in nefarious activities intended to harm the company, some of which include:


  • Hacking into a Sodexo education website, in knowing violation of federal computer crime laws, and posting a link to one of the union’s own websites where malicious and disparaging claims were made about Sodexo
  • Infiltrating, under false pretenses, a prestigious medical conference and throwing plastic roaches onto the food being served by Sodexo
  • Falsely claiming that the Company’s food production plants have “rodent problems” and scaring hospital patients by insinuating that Sodexo USA food contained bugs, rat droppings, mold, flies and maggots, and that Sodexo provided linens contaminated with the “remnants of someone else’s hospital waste”
  • Harassing Sodexo USA employees by threatening to accuse them of wrongdoing

The complaint also describes, among many other things, activities that are similar to other instances of the SEIU’s exploitation of college students to manufacture outrage against Sodexo and opposition to the company’s food services on campus.

You might also recall that, upon learning of Sodexo’s complaint, SEIU issued a statement blaming the Kochs and Scott Walker, and invoking the aftermath of Anonymous’ HBGary hacking in its response. (Maybe that’s why this tweet today sort of made me chuckle a little).

Well, as the discovery process proceeds, it will be interesting to see how the labor union that has shaped so much of the current administration’s policies will respond to the accusations when the facts and the evidence are finally presented in a court of law. If the evidence holds up in court, there’s nothing Media Matters will be able to do to rescue their purple-shirted partners from this one, no matter how much money the SEIU gives them.

The full press release is below.

*****************

Court Decides Sodexo’s Racketeering Claims Against

Service Employees International Union Will Proceed

Decision Clears Way for Sodexo to Present Evidence of Extortion

GAITHERSBURG, Md., July 27, 2011 – A federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia has ruled that Sodexo’s claims of extortion against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) may proceed under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. United States District Judge Claude Hilton ruled yesterday that Sodexo “has stated a claim upon which relief can be had”. This decision denying the SEIU’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit clears the way for Sodexo USA to prove SEIU’s orchestrated campaign to carry out threats against Sodexo is illegal.

“The court has validated our decision to file this lawsuit using the federal racketeering statute,” said Sodexo General Counsel Robert Stern. “This ruling clears the path to discovery and trial, allowing us to present evidence the SEIU has conspired to extort Sodexo by threatening financial damage unless we cave in to its demands. The SEIU’s campaign was designed to illegally threaten our company. We will continue to challenge the SEIU’s illegal behavior until it ends.”

Sodexo filed the civil racketeering lawsuit against the SEIU and other defendants in March 2011 seeking to stop the illegal campaign of extortion that the SEIU has been waging in the U.S. for more than a year. The lawsuit alleges the SEIU engaged in blackmail, vandalism, trespassing, harassment and lobbying law violations, which were designed to steer government and private contracts away from Sodexo in order to damage the Company’s business.

The complaint also alleges that the SEIU is trying to force Sodexo into a scheme that would deny its employees the right to vote for or against unionization in a secret-ballot election conducted by the federal government. This scheme would virtually guarantee the SEIU exclusive representation rights over tens of thousands of Sodexo employees and prevent any other employee choice for labor union representation.

“We are committed to protecting our business and the rights of our employees,” Stern said. “We believe that pursuing this litigation is in the best interests of our business, employees, and customers, as well as the millions of people we serve each day.”

As an industry leader, Sodexo is deeply committed to operating its business responsibly, engaging with local communities and improving the quality of life for its employees across the globe and the millions of people the company serves each day. Sodexo 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.

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