A favored weapon against business wielded by organized labor is the corporate campaign, a full-blown PR blitz that first threatens and then wreaks incredible damage to a company’s reputation. Distortions, rumors, personal attacks against individual managers, flat-out lies are the currency of these campaigns. Companies that depend on their public profile — hospitals are new favored targets of corporate campaigns — often do surrender, unwilling to suffer the reputational harm.
But companies also fight back — and win. And now, in two prominent cases, U.S. corporations who pride themselves on their reputations are going to the courts for relief against campaigns that are at heart conspiracies. In that case, an appropriate tool can be a civil racketeering lawsuit, using RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).
Bret Jacobson of the Center for Union Facts wrote about these actions in today’s Washington Times, a column called, “Big Labor’s Shakedown” reporting on suits by Wackenhut Corporation and Smithfield Foods.
Ironically, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the target of Smithfield’s suit, has a record of attacking companies in cases where the union itself is on weak moral ground. The union has rejected a petition of 3,000 Smithfield employees in North Carolina who simply want the right to vote on whether they become members. The union hired non-union picketers to stand outside a Nevada Wal-Mart for only $6 an hour in the blazing sun. To pressure a local retailer, it has made highly dubious claims about outdated baby food sold at grocery stores in Arizona.
Its ally, UNITE HERE, has been ordered to pay $17 million after being found guilty of “fraud, malice and oppression” during a smear campaign against medical professionals in California. It has also been found guilty of invading employees’ privacy in Pennsylvania by illegally accessing motor-vehicle records to get home addresses for unannounced visits.
The union targeted in the Wackenhut suit, the Service Employees International Union, has worked with its allies to intentionally overload emergency rooms with the poor and uninsured to pressure hospitals in the labor group’s crosshairs. That puts everyone in danger, and it makes everyone a potential victim of the union’s tactics.
You have to admire companies that won’t take these campaigns, these tactics, these conspiracies, lying down. Let’s see how the RICO suits work in practice, but in principle, fighting back against those who slur you is always the right thing to do.
P.S. Bret has more on these fights at Laborpains.org.
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