Wednesday, October 22, 2008
They haven't won the case yet, but if the recently ruling by Judge Payne (E.D. Va.) in Smithfield's RICO suit against the UFCW and its corporate campaign is any indication, the union is in big trouble (see here for some background of the case). I'm having trouble getting a link to the decision, but some key holdings include:
- denial of UFCW's motion for summary judgment
- granted summary judgment to Smithfield on four of UFCW's defenses (including First Amendment claims)
- excluded evidence from New York Times about working conditions at plant
- refused to exclude evidence about past UFCW corporate campaigns
The amount of money involved could cripple the union (think treble damages). That makes this decision even tougher to accept. This opinion reads like it was copied from Smithfield's brief and, if applied elsewhere, threatens to chill any future corporate campaigns. Possibly the scariest part is the judge's holding that the truthfulness of the union's claims was not a defense to the state tortious interference issues involved. The idea that a public campaign that is truthful could result in a RICO violation is hard to swallow. Other problems include excluding evidence on safety given that part of the RICO action alleged that the union's claims about safety problems were false. Also, the judge's suggestion that petitions to the government that were intended to harass enjoy no First Amendment protection seems in conflict with the Supreme Court's recent BE&K decision.
Hat Tip: Dennis