RI unions have gotten away with implied intimidation for too long.

Here’s an interesting section from William Jacobson’s running notes from the Rhode Island Superior Court hearing in the case of the National Education Association of Rhode Island and Nicole Solas:

The court then moved onto that anti-SLAPP portion of the case. Union attorney says Solas didn’t present evidence of bad faith or motive of harassment. Point out that Solas didn’t file an affidavit, or other evidence, so can’t invoke summary judgment. (My note – Solas relied on pleadings and admissions of NEA-RI for her motion, so not true no evidence presented.) Says Solas presented no evidence on “why” NEA-RI brought the suit.

SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” meaning that the plaintiff is using the process of the law to intimidate people who oppose them in the public sphere.

The first commenter on Jacobson’s post, Andy, puts his finger on an important point: “How is the fact that they are also trying to get her kicked off twitter NOT evidence in this case?”  Add into the mix the union’s director diminishing her status as a stay-at-home mom on television.

While we’re at it, although this would be more difficult to prove as relevant, we can’t ignore that the only reason Nicole Solas is famous is that the South Kingstown school department (the other party the union sued) almost filed its own lawsuit against her.  Unwanted attention led the school committee to pull up short of stepping into its own SLAPP suit, but the union had to know it was contributing to a pattern.

A bigger pattern is important to recognize, however.

Intimidation of one form or another is central to the operations of public-sector labor organizations, especially (lamentably) the teacher unions, usually with a veneer of plausible deniability.  For instance, they’ll go to public hearings in order to disrupt and intimidate elected officials, which they’ll often do by shouting out things that seem unrelated, such as “speak up” or “you have to move the meeting.”  I’ve seen them show up together to lay in wait for people they don’t like (such as former Providence Journal editorial page editor Ed Achorn) and then scatter when they see somebody (i.e., me) who will notice and report on it.  In negotiations, they’ll go in nearby rooms and put on a performance of shouting to intimidate the managers.

These examples aren’t even getting into others that are more unions’ bread-and-butter strategies, like picketing fundraisers, inflating giant rat balloons, forcing elected officials to walk through gauntlet lines of same-colored t-shirts to get to meetings, and so on.

The biggest difference, here, is that their antics typically work to keep ordinary folks like Nicole Solas from stepping into the mix.  Now that one has, it would be extremely refreshing for Judge Linda Rekas Sloan to acknowledge that the union has been caught out this time, but such an outcome would be surprising in the extreme in a Rhode Island court.


Featured image adapted from Eskay Lim on Unsplash.

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