Unanimous appellate decision strikes down SEIU’s anti-SLAPP motion
SAN FRANCISCO — Last week, the California Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, reversed a trial court ruling in a lawsuit brought by NUHW supporters against SEIU for alleged acts and threats of violence against workers organizing for NUHW. The lower court had granted an anti-SLAPP motion to SEIU, holding the plaintiffs responsible for SEIU’s attorney’s fees. In a unanimous decision, the appellate court rejected that ruling.
“SLAPP” is an acronym for “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (Navellier v. Sletten (2002) 29 Cal.4th 82, 85). California’s anti-SLAPP law was designed to deter plaintiffs from filing frivolous suits whose sole purpose is to chill speech rather than pursue legitimate legal redress.
The appeals court ruling explicitly rejects the lower court’s characterization of the suit as a legitimate target of anti-SLAPP restitution. Referring to SEIU supporters’ allegedly violent and threatening behavior toward NUHW activists, the ruling states, “(c)onduct illegal as a matter of law is not protected by the anti-SLAPP statute … Threats of violence or bodily injury are not protected activities for the purposes of an anti-SLAPP motion … The conduct goes well beyond mere speech in connection with a labor dispute.”
“We are vindicated by this decision,” said Attorney Angela Alioto, whose firm filed the lawsuit. “The courts have acknowledged that there is no protection for violence in the free speech arena, thuggery is not speech.”
“This decision demonstrates that when SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan instruct their staff and supporters to physically and verbally accost healthcare workers who are organizing to join NUHW, they can’t run to the courts to protect them,” said Sal Rosselli, President of NUHW. “Violence and threat of violence isn’t protected speech activity and it has no place in the labor movement.”