A federal appeals court in Chicago has denied a petition for permission to appeal filed by the United Steelworkers of America in a pending racketeering lawsuit brought against the union by Titan International Inc.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decided Nov. 7 not to reconsider a previous lower-court ruling denying dismissal of the case. The USWA filed the petition Nov. 4.
Quincy, Ill.-based tire and wheel maker Titan filed a $240 million lawsuit against the USWA and more than 130 officers and members in September 2000, alleging their actions during a long labor dispute violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Judge Jeanne E. Scott of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Springfield twice denied motions for dismissal, once in October 2001 and once in July of this year.
Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan president and CEO, said it is "satisfying" to see this most recent decision, and he expects the case to proceed to trial after the discovery period ends. A trial in district court tentatively is scheduled for October 2004, he said.
In the suit, Titan alleges the USWA and its members "implemented a massive conspiracy to extort money" and conspired to "receive income from a pattern of racketeering activity" against the company. Titan claims USWA members made bomb threats, committed acts of physical violence and property damage, filed baseless workers' compensation claims and interfered with the company's business relations.
"We cannot tolerate such unlawful behavior, that harmed our employees, stockholders and customers," Taylor said.
The USWA has maintained the lawsuit is frivolous and is an act of retaliation against the union after strikes at Titan tire plants in Des Moines, Iowa, and Natchez, Miss.-the two longest in tire industry history-occurred from 1998 to 2001. The Natchez facility has been mothballed since spring 2001.
If a decision eventually goes against the union, the RICO violations could carry treble damages and increase the value of the suit to as much as $720 million, Titan said.