A long awaited trial is underway in Houston against one of the nation’s largest unions.

The complaint against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) stems from when the group set its sights on Houston-based Professional Janitorial Service (PJS) after the company refused to give in to the union’s demands. Rather than allow SEIU to be the official union of its workers, as five other Houston-based companies did, PJS wanted to offer the option to the employees and allow them to hear both sides and choose whether to unionize, and with what organization.

When PJS stood firm, the union deployed Chicago-style tactics to intimidate the company, including damning fliers with false accusations, baseless lawsuits spurred by the complaints of proxy employees planted by the union, 5-foot inflatable rats in front of businesses which utilized PJS’ service, and a relentless dedication to, in their own words, “kill PJS.”

The campaign was called “Justice for Janitors,” but its real goal? To make an example of PJS so that any other company that refused the union’s demands would know their fate.

SEIU claimed PJS forced employees to work overtime without pay, withheld a portion of employees’ paychecks, and hired based on employees’ union preference. Both the United States Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board investigated these claims numerous times and found no wrongdoing on behalf of PJS.

Lawyers for PJS presented numerous internal emails, newsletters, and other communications showing SEIU’s $1 million “Justice for Janitors” campaign was a front whose only task was to get PJS to give in or gradually erode its client list, whichever came first. One internal memo directly laid out the union’s main objectives, which were to 1) cost PJS money, 2) cost PJS accounts, and 3) ensure PJS “acts the way we want them to act.”

The most shocking evidence presented at trial was a phone call between Dan Schlademan, who had been deployed to Houston to head up the “Justice for Janitors” campaign and the owner of PJS. In the conversation, which was only played in part, Schlademan is heard attempting a “good cop, bad cop” routine, saying that everyone else in the union wants to “kill PJS,” but he’s the only one looking for out them, so it would be in PJS’ best interest to work with him.

The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, will put on display how thuggish union tactics are just as rampant today as in the past. Unions are able to continue bullying private industry because of the cover given to them by politicians who rely on union backing in order to stay in power.

Unions often claim that their only interest is to protect and serve their members. But if the rest of the trial is anything like day one, it will be clear that regardless of how well employees are being treated before unionization, the SEIU’s only interest is growing its membership and ultimately its capital for self-serving purposes.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.