HOUSTON – SEIU Texas filed for bankruptcy over the weekend following a $7.8 million judgement in a lawsuit brought by a janitorial service company the union sought to destroy.
Professional Janitorial Services (PJS) Houston argues that SEIU International, with its $300 million-a-year budget, should be forced to pay. So it filed dozens of choice SEIU emails with a Harris County court last week meant to show that headquarters was running the show.
The SEIU’s lawyers argued that the bankruptcy filing meant those records had to be kept secret, but Judge Erin Lunceford allowed them to enter the public record without so much as a redaction. (The union was kind enough to say which emails were most sensitive, which we then compiled.)
The internal emails show that SEIU has continued to wage warfare against PJS, both for undercutting its unionized competitors with low bids, and because company executives dared to support a Texas bill that would end government-forced collection of union dues.
Right into 2016, the union continued to circulate unfounded allegations of “wage theft” and other calumny, which was the sort of conduct that lost the lawsuit for the union.
The emails also demonstrate exactly why PJS officials might have hard feelings toward public sector unions – the SEIU is still pulling strings with public sector pension funds to get them to pressure building managers to sever ties with PJS.
That conduct was one of the big issues in the lawsuit SEIU Texas lost. The emails show SEIU executives successfully pushing to get New York pension officials to do the same.
The emails also show the national SEIU office in Washington, D.C., coordinating many Texas-related campaigns. In one, which demonstrates the detailed level of involvement, national executive Bill Ragen scolds a recent low-level hire working for SEIU Texas for expensing a taxi ride to the office.
The national office also sent money for payroll and office expenses.
The emails show why union organizing sometimes gets into areas covered by racketeering law. In one, Ragen talks about running a short, intense campaign against PJS’s Austin operations to appease a unionized competitor, ABM Janitorial.
“It is clear that there will be no reason for an open-ended ground campaign in Austin once we have settled the contract and are not sitting across the table from ABM et al, listening to them demand that we do something about PJS,” Ragen writes his colleagues in one.
And despite the claims the union makes about PJS’ low pay, among themselves, officials acknowledge that “PJS has taken to matching union wages in high density areas in Houston.”
The dispute will now move into federal bankruptcy court.
Contact Jon Cassidy at [email protected] or @jpcassidy000.