A subsidiary of Pulte Homes filed a lawsuit Dec. 1 against Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), accusing the group of committing assault, battery, theft, destruction of property, and intimidation against its employees after LiUNA members crashed a company meeting in Missouri.
For more than two years LiUNA has aggressively protested at Pulte's meetings, campaigning to unionize Pulte's contractors, including its subsidiary Pulte Building Systems. At times the protests were aggressive, but Pulte's Missouri subsidiary, The Jones Co., claims that protestors crossed the line into unlawfulness on Oct. 19 as they verbally and physically accosted several of The Jones Co. employees, including a pregnant woman.
LiUNA released a statement Wednesday, Dec. 2 disputing Pulte's allegations. "Not only are the allegations by Pulte false, we believe they are distractions from the real issues -- working to create a stronger housing industry that treats workers, home buyers and communities fairly."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, claims about 100 people wearing orange clothes with a LiUNA emblem and one dressed as a rat stormed into a hotel conference room in Chesterfield, Mo., that Pulte had rented for a private meeting with 50 Jones employees. Jones was a subsidiary of Centex Homes, which merged into Pulte in August.
The LiUNA members entered the meeting loudly chanting "shame on you" in unison and carrying signs accusing Pulte of paying low hourly wages to workers, high wages to management, and building poorly constructed houses., the lawsuit said.
Several LiUNA members are accused of accosting Pulte CEO Richard Dugas, shouting at him within inches of his face as he tried to speak during the meeting. Others protestors "surrounded various attendees, intimidating them, threatening them, shouting at them, and acting in a menacing manner," the lawsuit said.
Dugas adjourned the meeting to retreat to The Jones Co.'s headquarters, and as The Jones Co. employees tried the leave the room, the lawsuit alleges LiUNA protestors blocked the path of a visibly pregnant Jones employee, touched her stomach and shouted at her, saying she was sacrificing her child or children by working for Pulte.
A man and another woman were bumped and jostled by the LiUNA protestors, making it difficult for them to leave the room and parking lot. As the woman tried to get into her car, the lawsuit said LiUNA members shouted at her, addressing her with obscene female epithets and threatening her sexually. The woman left but found large scratches on her car later.
The same woman, while working in a local sales community, was approached by a man the next day, who called her by her first name and told her he wanted to discuss the previous day's events with her. She fled to her car and left the community.
Three of the Jones employees filed police reports with the Chesterfield Police Department, detailing what they say happened to them during and after the meeting for possible criminal action.
But the lawsuit by Jones is a civil case filed in federal court. In addition to accusing the union members of assault, it also accuses the union of stealing an Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals jersey intended to be a gift to Dugas. The jersey disappeared in the fray.
There are also accusations that LiUNA violated labor law, including some provisions of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947. One alleged violation was of a provision that prohibits "secondary boycott" for pressuring Jones, a former Centex-owned company, that could be called a "neutral party" to LiUNA's complaints about Pulte.
Another accusation is that LiUNA interfered with a business relationship between Jones and the hotel where the initial meeting was held. The lawsuit claims that, as a result of LiUNA members action, the room had to be abandoned and the planned meeting's purpose was thwarted.
Another allegation is that, by interfering with the meeting, LiUNA deprived Jones of the use of the room it had rented.
Jones is asking actual and punitive damages in the case but does not include a total for the damages it is seeking.