SLAPPs Targeting Advocates Fighting for the Rights of American Workers

SLAPPs Against Labor

  • In New Jersey in 2006, a hospital sued the local Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) and its president for, among other things, testifying before a State Assembly Health Committee and regulatory agencies about poor patient care at the hospital.  The court dismissed the suit, finding that the hospital had failed to bring its claims before the National Labor Relations Board before bringing suit. Bergen Regional Medical Center, L.P. v. HPAE, Civ. 05-2596 (D. N.J. 2005).
  • In 2007, Smithfield foods filed a federal lawsuit against the United Food and Commercial workers, claiming that the union orchestrated a public smear campaign to hurt Smithfield’s business as a method of extorting the company and alleging $5 million in damages. Part of the “smear campaign” was the encouragement of local government entities to censure Smithfield’s practices. The suit was brought in Virginia, which has no anti-SLAPP law. The court allowed the suit to proceed, but it was settled in 2008. Smithfield Foods, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union et al., No. 3:07cv641 (E.D. Va. May 30, 2008)
  • In California, the Monterey Plaza Hotel sued the Hotel Employees Local 483 after a member of the union made comments about firings conducted by the hotel. The union successfully invoked California’s anti-SLAPP statute to quickly dismiss the case. Monterey Plaza Hotel v. Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 483, 69 Cal.App.4th 1057 (1999).
  • In 1996, medical services provider Beverly Enterprises sued a nurses union in Pennsylvania for malicious defamation in the publication of fliers and radio statements about safety issues and the ongoing labor dispute between the union and the medical services company. The NLRB, in advising that the suit constituted an enjoinable unfair labor practice, wrote that the employer “has failed to present the Board with evidence that shows his lawsuit raises genuine issues of material fact, i.e. prima facie evidence of each clause of action alleged.” SeeNLRB Advice Memorandum, Beverly Enterprises-Pennsylvania, Case 6-CA-28130-(1-3).
  • In 1997, the same health care organization sued the local president of the Service Employees International Union, accusing her of defaming an executive of the company in a one-on-one confrontation at a rally and at an informal town hall meeting called by five members of Congress. The suit was dismissed for failure to state a claim by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The judge ruled that statements made at the town hall meeting were protected by legislative immunity, and that the remarks made personally to the executive were made in anger and that no reasonable person would take them literally. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, but held that the statements made at the legislative proceeding did not constitute defamation, and so did not reach the question of legislative immunity. See Beverly Enterprises, Inc. v. Trump, 182 F.3d 183 (1998).