Suit filed against union that opposes N.J. Walmart

Posted: July 26, 2013

If the United Food and Commercial Workers union has a beef with Walmart - and it does - let the union pursue Walmart, says developer Peter Abrams.

But, he said, it should leave him alone.

That's why Abrams, a longtime retail real estate developer from Abington Township, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against UFCW Local 1360 in federal court in Camden on Tuesday.

Abrams' company ARD Hamilton L.L.C. owns a 24.1-acre site in Hamilton Township, near Trenton, and has signed a lease with Walmart, which plans to build a store on the site.

"If a union has a dispute with Walmart, have a dispute with Walmart, picket them," Abrams said Wednesday. But, he said, the union "cannot interfere with Peter Abrams and his legitimate right to develop a property when [it has] no labor dispute with Peter Abrams."

Local 1360 president Sam Ferraino Jr. did not return several calls Wednesday, but his assistant said Ferraino was not familiar with the lawsuit.

The local, which has its office in West Berlin, represents supermarket workers.

Walmart stores are primarily nonunion. For years, the union has been involved in a national drive to organize Walmart workers.

Abrams' lawsuit said the union was improperly interfering with his company's plans to develop the site, violating the National Labor Relations Act.

The union's strategy, according to Abrams' suit, is to use union members as "shills" to throw up legal hurdles resulting in costly delays to the proposed development.

On June 28, Abrams' suit says, Jeffrey Baron, a Voorhees lawyer specializing in development, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Mercer County opposing the development on behalf of Paul Cortesini, a union member and resident of Hamilton Township.

Abrams' suit says Cortesini had not raised any objections to the project during the township review process, but was recruited to be a plaintiff by the union. According to Abrams' suit, the union is covering Cortesini's expenses.

Cortesini's suit asks Superior Court to overturn the Hamilton Township Planning Board's March 28 decision approving the project on the ground that the hearings were not properly conducted.

Baron declined to comment on the federal lawsuit, saying, "I'm not a party and I don't represent the union."

He also declined to say who was paying his fees in the Mercer County case, saying that was a matter of attorney-client privilege.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing

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