The American people have become more skeptical of unions and the roles they play in various political processes. This crystallized a few months ago when Wisconsin public employees and union supporters rampaged through Madison’s state capitol. Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA) used that event to comment to a crowd at a union rally that they should not be afraid to “get out on the street and get a little bloody when necessary.”
A few union thugs took that advice and pummeled Republican congressional candidate Marty Lamb, who ran against incumbent Democrat Jim McGovern in 2010, at that same rally. (You never hear any of this listening to the “mainstream media,” do you?) Statistics from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research document 8,799 union violence cases since 1975, but only 1,963 arrests were made with 263 convictions. America has a continuing problem with union violence.
It was under President Grover Cleveland that organized labor emerged as violent. In May 1886, striking union workers killed eight policemen and many civilians in the Haymarket Square riot in Chicago. In July 1892, union strikers fought pitched battles with a private (Pinkerton) guard force and the National Guard at the Carnegie steel plant in Homestead, Pa., and sabotaged Pullman Railroad and the U.S. mail delivery process with destruction of property two years later.
In January 1999, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) destroyed two transmission-line towers in Alaska, depriving 400,000 Alaskans of electric power in the middle of winter. During the winter of 2010, the New York City Sanitation Workers Union sabotaged city snow-removal efforts, and several people died due to the inability of rescue crews to navigate through the city.
It was the U.S. v. Enmons (410 U.S. 396) Supreme Court case, decided Feb. 22, 1973, that really institutionalized union violence. The court decided that, if conducted to further union goals, violence does not violate provisions of the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. 1951), which prohibits extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Incredible! The Enmons case was about the Gulf States Utility Company’s contract negotiations with IBEW and the union’s “right” to disrupt the business, including vandalism, assault and murder, as exempt from federal prosecution. This decision nullified the 1934 Anti-Racketeering Act and has had an effect on unions of being “exempt from provisions of that law when attempting by the use of force or the threat of violence to obtain wages for a job, whether they rendered any service or not,” to quote the Supreme Court.
No wonder unions lobby for more “progressive” laws by federal government. As progressive, turn-of-the-century lawyer Clarence Darrow said: “I don’t care how many wrongs unions have committed, I don’t care how many crimes … I don’t care how often they fail … their cause is just.” The modern willingness to downplay union violence is not new. But it is a plague on our Republic, and it is long past time to do something about it. Union bosses consider themselves above the law … because they are.
The majority of companies and readers of this journal are probably not involved with union labor issues. However, these matters are of national and pervasive concern to all business people because whether it is direct disruption of your business, dislocations at suppliers or customers, or direct thuggery outside the workplace, it is “not an American value” to tolerate such behavior.
There have been several attempts in recent years to pass a law that corrects this legally supported abomination. In 2007 and 2009, on two separate occasions, simple legislative remedy failed in Congressional votes. The two most recent attempts (H.R. 2537 and S. 1506) should be resurrected and this “Freedom from Union Violence Act” passed. If Members of Congress will not sponsor and vote affirmatively to pass this law, that should be sufficient evidence for the need to recall them or deny them re-election. Union coercion and corruption must cease. Your job as an American citizen is to ensure that this happens by instructing your two Senators and your Representative to get this job done immediately.IH
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