GAITHERSBURG, MD -- Sodexo USA has filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union, charging the union of extortion in an attempt to unionize its employees.
The complaint, filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, accuses the labor union of numerous threats against its employees and property and engaging in illegal tactics to steer business away from Sodexo and harm its reputation.
SEIU has reportedly made multiple attempts in recent years to represent some of the 80,000 of Sodexo's hourly employees who are not union members. Approximately 18,000 of the foodservice giant’s employees are union members.
Sodexo charges in the suit that SEIU has engaged in a campaign to force the company into favoring its union to the exclusion of others without allowing its employees to exercise their right to vote for or against the union in a federally supervised secret ballot election.
"We work constructively with unions every day but the SEIU has crossed the line by breaking the law," said Robert Stern, general counsel for Sodexo USA in filing the suit. "We will not tolerate the SEIU's tactics any longer.
The complaint seeks an injunction against SEIU as well as unspecified monetary damages.
Meanwhile, the SEIU has accused Sodexo of union bashing and poor working conditions for its employees. Sodexo reportedly agreed last week to settle a case that was pending before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board over a policy that completely barred employees from talking to the media. The new policy reportedly limits comments only when the employees are speaking on behalf of Sodexo.