PJS Houston Wins Landmark Lawsuit Against SEIU
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Posted by: Shannon Roberts
Chicago labor union ordered to pay $5.3 million for “Kill PJS” campaign
Houston, TX (Sep. 6, 2016)—A Houston jury today ordered the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to pay Professional Janitorial Services (PJS) Houston $5.3 million in damages for making false claims about the company’s business practices and treatment of PJS employees.
“The jury found what PJS and its employees have known for more than a decade, which is that the SEIU is a corrupt organization that is rotten to its core,” stated Brent Southwell, CEO of PJS Houston. “The next step is to ensure the union is removed from Texas and sent packing back to Chicago.”
PJS sued the Chicago-based labor union in 2007 for sending thousands of letters and flyers to PJS customers that relied on forged documents and what was described in court proceedings as “pure lies” to disparage the company. The SEIU fought the disparagement lawsuit for 10 years to avoid public exposure of its “campaign manual” and internal communications that encouraged union officials to break laws and “kill PJS.” Evidence produced in the trial resulted in the following findings:
- False Claims: SEIU filed 19 unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints against PJS with the National Labor Relations Board and cited the complaints as “evidence” of the company’s mistreatment of employees, despite the fact that every complaint was dismissed by the federal agency or withdrawn by the union. The union also filed a class action lawsuit against PJS that claimed the company owed back wages and “deposits” to its employees, then cited the lawsuit as evidence the company was violating federal wage laws, despite the fact that the Department of Labor found no such violations and the lawsuit was dismissed.
- False Statements: SEIU directed its Texas organizers to ignore laws and use the union’s Washington, DC-based legal “Fellow,” Darren Dalmat to “legalize” their conduct. Dalmat instructed organizers to simply write “allegedly” in front of false statements that were sent to PJS customers, and approved documents that were sent to him in as little as three minutes in some cases. This practice resulted in another scheme where the union’s lead organizer, Maria Luisa Hernandez, was shown to have apparently forged employee statements on claims against PJS, and engaged in efforts to influence witnesses at the trial. The scheme extended to the union’s Austin-based attorneys, Philip Durst and Craig Deats, who told the court Ms. Hernandez was recovering from a serious head injury and was under heavy sedation that prevented her from testifying, though she was ordered to appear and admitted under oath that she suffered no such injury and was taking no sedative medication.
- Media Collaboration: SEIU directed its Texas representatives to “recruit” reporters at the Houston Chronicle and other outlets who would help them “take the offensive” in the campaign against PJS. This included a strategy to avoid any media attention on the failure of the SEIU to gain support from PJS employees for its organizing campaign. The SEIU instructed Texas organizers to work with its media “allies” to focus their reporting on the union’s falsified and now discredited claims.
The successful lawsuit is part of a plan that was established by PJS to counter the SEIU’s “Kill PJS” campaign, and to protect PJS employees from forced unionization. The company designed its lawsuit to focus only on the union’s disparagement as a means to hold the union accountable for PJS losses that resulted from the unlawful conduct. PJS will now ask local prosecutors to investigate apparent perjury by union officials and an attorney who testified in the trial, and will increase its efforts with state legislators to remove the SEIU from eligibility in state-provided union dues collection programs.
Read the full press release here.