UNITE implicated in lawsuit

Marvin Lazaro, May 13, 2002

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) announced last week that it has helped Matthew Kahn file a lawsuit against the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).

The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Kahn, alleges UNITE employee Ramiro Hernandez and several "union militants" attacked Kahn in the parking lot of temporary employment agency Labor Ready in Commerce, CA, in May 2001. According to the lawsuit, Kahn suffered from a concussion and several gashes on his head as a result of the attack.

The NRTW also alleges UNITE and its local affiliates were aware Hernandez had numerous prior arrests for strike-related violence and that the union has provided financial support to him in order to help Hernandez "escape any punishment for his violent actions."

"This is an example of union officials using intimidation to achieve their goals of preventing employees from exercising their own independent right of whether they want to strike," said Stefan Gleason, vp, NRTW.

To which, Susan Cowell, vp, UNITE, responded, "We think the lawsuit is bogus. We believe it's part of an effort by the NRTW to take away the rights of workers to organize.

"The NRTW exists solely to undermine unions' and workers' rights," she continued. "Labor Ready exists to provide strike replacements. The lawsuit makes clear that Labor Ready is not merely a business but is hand-in-glove with the NRTW in a campaign to undermine those rights to organize."

Kahn, a branch manager for Labor Ready, was providing replacement employees in May 2001 to Hollander Home Fashions. At the time Hollander was embroiled in a strike with its factory workers from its plant in Vernon, CA. Hollander is based in Boca Raton, FL, but operates several facilities throughout the United States.

According to Dan Cronin, director of legal information for the NRTW, Kahn's suit is seeking damages for time lost from work, hospitalization costs and punitive damages.

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