December 15, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Houston, TX – The Texas branch of the Service Employees International Union in Texas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Dec. 4, three months after a jury in ordered it to pay $5.3 million to a Houston office-cleaning company it had accused of cheating workers out of wages.
The company, Professional Janitorial Service, had sued the union in 2007 for costing it customers by maligning its reputation during its “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign. CEO Brent Southwell said the company would try to force the national SEIU to cover the damages, “making the union’s Washington, D.C., office pay for its sins.
” The bankruptcy filing, SEIU Texas President Elsa Caballero said in a statement, ensures that the union can stay open and continue “helping working Houstonians have a voice at work, protecting them from unfair employers, and building a better future for their families.” The union, which represents 3,500 janitors in Houston, says it plans to appeal the award on the grounds that its organizing campaign was protected by free-speech rights and federal labor law, but can’t afford to put up the full amount of the judgment—now $7.8 million with interest—as a deposit. Read more