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SEIU Under Attack: Break, Litigate, Defund, Rinse, Repeat

SodexoUSA has filed a RICO lawsuit against the SEIU, claiming it is using strongarm tactics to force the company to unionize. According to their corporate website, they allege that SEIU is trying to force workers to replace other unions with
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SodexoUSA has filed a RICO lawsuit against the SEIU, claiming it is using strongarm tactics to force the company to unionize.

According to their corporate website, they allege that SEIU is trying to force workers to replace other unions with theirs.

  • 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.

Ordinarily this wouldn't garner much of my attention, but given the multi-pronged attacks on the SEIU by every right-winger in the land, I decided to look closer at SodexoUSA and their executives in particular to see if there were any relationships or donations to Republican governors. Since their business is privatized food services to hospitals and other concerns, it seemed like something to investigate.

They're not all that transparent on corporate governance, but in the process of looking, I found this nugget:

Sodexho Alliance is a holding company. Through its subsidiaries, Co. is engaged in two main activities: the Food and Facilities Management Services and the Service Vouchers and Cards. The Food and Facilities Management Services segment provides food services and facilities management services to businesses and industries, armed forces, correctional services, healthcare services, seniors, school and colleges and remote sites. The Service Vouchers and Cards segment offers 2 products for companies and governments. The first one plays a role in the motivation of employees and the second one supports public authorities in implementing and monitoring their social aid programs.

Remember Susie's article last week about Minnesota's plan to issue state-approved cards to people on public assistance? Makes me wonder whether or not one of their approved vendors is this company, or whether they're positioning themselves to bid on these state contracts. I don't know. I haven't been able to find anything. Yet. But it seems strange to me that this company with what appears to be a history of antagonism with unions is going full-tilt hard-hit with the RICO lawsuit.

They've got a history of controversy, especially around their unionized workers. In April, 2010, 200 workers walked off the job at the University of Pittsburgh, along with workers on 5 other campuses.

"Sodexo doesn't respect us. I can't afford to put my kids on the company insurance, but I don't want to keep them on state insurance," says Danielle Rue, a Sodexo worker whose children rely on state-provided health care. "How can a company that made a billion dollars force me and my kids onto welfare? When we tried to stand up for ourselves, they violated our rights. They do it to non-union workers, too."

Sodexo food service workers who belong to a union are not the only ones supporting the UPitt food service workers who are taking a stand. Other union workers have pledged their solidarity.

"Our union and others are going to support striking SEIU Sodexo workers," said Bill Cagney of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 95, who represents workers at the university. "Pitt is a responsible employer. But when the big multinational companies like Sodexo come into Pittsburgh and refuse to follow the law or provide family sustaining jobs, labor will stand together."

There was also a walkout in Ohio, where workers alleged Sodexo was blocking their right to unionize. Danny Glover was arrested while protesting outside their corporate headquarters in Maryland last year.

This is the private side of the war on unions waged in conjunction with the public side in state legislatures. The end goal is the same: union-busting, union defunding, maximize corporate profits, and spend lots of money litigating cases against them.

When is union organizing racketeering? When you're a multinational company with lots of profits waiting to be taken out of the mouths of employees.

In a somewhat ironic twist, Sodexo's philanthropic bent is toward ending world hunger. You've got to wonder if paying their employees a decent working wage and providing health insurance might be one step toward that goal.

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