Rivero v. AFSCME, AFL-CIO, 105 Cal. App. 4th 913 (2003)

David Rivero was a supervisor of janitors at the International House at UC Berkeley before his employment was terminated when he refused to accept a demotion to dishwasher and pot scrubber in the International House’s kitchen. Rivero sued his union, the AFSCME, for libel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things, associated with the union’s distribution of three documents that contained allegedly false information about him (accusing Rivero of soliciting bribes, practicing favoritism and harassing employees). In response, the union filed a special motion to strike under the “anti-SLAPP” statute (Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16) on the grounds that it had been exercising its right to free speech and that Rivero had not met his burden of establishing a probability of prevailing on his claims. The trial court denied the union’s motion, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court held that the union’s statements about Rivero “hardly [involved] a matter of public interest” and that the union had, therefore, failed to meet its initial burden of establishing that the complaint arose from protected activity.