(first of a series)
A Federal court in Virginia ruled on January 29th that Smithfield Packing could proceed with a civil lawsuit filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against the United Food and Commercial Workers, Jobs With Justice, and others. At issue is a corporate campaign spearheaded by the union to support its organizing drive at Smithfield’s Tar Heel North Carolina pork processing plant. The action if successful could push the US labor movement into a legal black hole in which it could vanish.
The suit is one of two recently filed by corporations that threaten to turn the US labor rights clock back to the 19th century by dusting off the use of conspiracy laws to stop union activities. The suit attacks basic rights of free speech, free association, and criminalizes the legislative process by undermining the right to petition government. It affects not just unions but activists and advocacy organizations engaged in corporate campaigns no matter what the cause.
In what appears to be a new corporate legal offensive against organized labor, in November, the Wackenhut Corporation, a US subsidiary of the British based Group 4 Sericour, filed another RICO suit, this one against SEIU for activities surrounding the union’s attempt to organize workers employed as security guards by the company. In this and subsequent posts we will mainly focus on the Smithfield Packing suit since the brief has been made public and is posted on-line.