SEIU’s Alternative Organizing Techniques: Lawful or a RICO Violation?

In one corner is Prime Healthcare Services, Inc. that operates 28 hospitals in 8 states. In the other corner is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest union focused on the healthcare industry. Prime filed a RICO lawsuit against SEIU and several union executives for engaging in a conspiracy to force Prime to allow the unionization of tens of thousands of its employees. According to the suit, the SEIU “entered into an agreement and conspired to target and to attack Prime with the ultimate objective of either unionizing Prime, thereby altering its cost structure and business model, or eliminating Prime from the market altogether; either result benefits defendants.”

Prime further claims that the union has tried to avoid organizing its employees through traditional means, instead opting to wage a war on the hospital operator through an extortionate campaign under the guise of “social activism.” In fact, SEIU has a playbook for carrying out such campaigns (I know because I have a copy) that includes tactics “for harassing, intimidating, smearing, and psychologically and financially punishing employers that are unwilling to yield to their extortionate demands.” This lawsuit, involving two heavyweight fighters, will be fun to watch, as it will likely create new laws regarding alternative union organizing techniques.