Published: 11/04/2011

The IUF, whose governing Executive Committee met in Geneva, Switzerland March 29, 30, has strongly condemned the use of legislation originally designed to combat organized crime to attack fundamental union rights in the United States.

The US subsidiary of the French-based global catering company Sodexo has filed a lawsuit against the IUF-affiliated Service Employees International Union (SEIU) under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law dating from 1970 and intended to prosecute organized crime.

The law has strayed from its mandate and is now being used to prevent US workers and their unions from exercising their basic rights and organizing workers.

Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President, recalled that his union had been targeted with a RICO lawsuit a few years ago. In response to an organizing campaign, the company had alleged that drawing attention to poor working conditions and seeking broad support for workers amounted to criminal “extortion”.

The renewed use of the law to thwart union organizing was part of the current wave of aggressive legislative and other attacks on US workers like the recent law in Wisconsin to strip public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights.

IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald criticized the Sodexo lawsuit as an inappropriate legal action intended solely to criminalize union organizing and campaigning. Oswald pledged the full support of the IUF for its US members in their fight to defeat the growing misuse of the legislature and the judiciary to undermine American unions.