A Portland Teamster filed a federal lawsuit Sept. 14 alleging assault and battery by a guard working for Huffmaster Crisis Response, a Michigan-based strike staffing company hired to police the strike at the Nabisco bakery in Northeast Portland.
Jesse Dreyer, a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 162 union, says a Huffmaster agent beat him while he was picketing with members of the local bakers’ union outside the Portland Nabisco bakery on Monday morning.
A video taken of the incident shows Dreyer being squashed up against a white van for several minutes by a Huffmaster security guard, one of roughly a dozen security guards hired on a contract basis by Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer was “forcefully pinning plaintiff against a van and physically striking plaintiff for several minutes” on behalf of his employer, Huffmaster. “Regulating union members like plaintiff, including through use of force, was the kind of behavior that defendant’s agent was employed to perform, and the agent’s behavior as alleged in this complaint was subject to defendant’s control, and the agent was acting on defendant’s behalf when he assaulted and beat plaintiff.”
Portland lawyer Michael Fuller is representing Dreyer, who’s seeking monetary damages in a jury trial.
The lawsuit is the latest development in the escalating bakers’ union strike that began Aug. 10 and has garnered support from outside advocacy groups, politicians and even the Portland Thorns.
Mondelez International, Nabisco’s parent company, is using Huffmaster to escort workers across picket lines, as well as to staff other positions at the bakery that are currently vacant because of the 200 local bakers’ union members on strike.
On Sept. 12 WW wrote about increasingly aggressive behavior by Huffmaster guards since the strike began. Videos and photos shared with WW show security guards standing within inches of strikers for prolonged amounts of time, seemingly as an intimidation tactic.
Other photos and videos show Huffmaster guards pushing strikers and supporters of the strike out of the way of vans carrying strikebreaking workers into the bakery.
Last week, Mondelez sent a cease-and-desist letter to the local bakers’ union. The union’s lawyer, Margaret Olney, immediately shot back to say that nearly all the actions outlined by Mondelez’s attorneys were performed by supporters of the strike and not bakers’ union members themselves. Though the snack giant’s attorneys said they would be seeking a temporary restraining order against the bakers’ union, they have since told Olney they wouldn’t be filing for one—at least not yet.
Huffmaster did not immediately respond to WW’s request for comment.