The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of the Carpenters and Joiners of America recently agreed to pay Hoffman Construction Co. $450,000 and to settle a lawsuit over alleged unlawful picketing during a 2007 strike in Oregon. The Carpenters have also agreed to pay an additional $200,000 into an escrow account until the union has trained its members on diversity, race and sex discrimination, intimidation, and picket line behavior. Click here to read the consent decree.
A union paying an employer? You read that correctly. Hoffman alleged that Carpenters members engaged in unlawful picketing with mass picketing and improper signage, intimidated workers, disrupted traffic, struck vehicles, picketed reserved gates, made excessive noise, and caused physical damage. Hoffman also alleged that picketers used derogatory racial and sexist epithets, obscenities and threatening language aimed at replacement workers and union members crossing picket lines.
This is an important decision for employers. While lawsuits against unions for picket line misconduct are fairly common, a decisive outcome like this is very rare. This sets a precedent that such picket line behavior is not acceptable, and may encourage unions to better control picketers.