Georgia Congressman Strives to Abolish ‘Union-Thug Exemption’
(Source: January 2012 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)
In today’s America, prosecutions of Big Labor arson, assaults, death threats, and other serious crimes are extraordinarily difficult.
Such prosecutions are frequently hindered because of a loophole in federal law that exempts extortionate violence from prosecution when it is committed pursuant to so-called “legitimate union objectives.”
And one objective that federal law clearly deems to be “legitimate” is to expand the number of employees who are forced to accept union representation and pay union dues as a condition of employment.
“Time and again, federal prosecutors have amassed extensive evidence that Big Labor bosses have orchestrated, authorized and/or ratified violence, vandalism and threats for union organizing purposes,” noted Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee.
“Nevertheless, because of the pro-union violence loophole in the federal Hobbs Act, extortion prosecutions of the implicated union officials ultimately fail — or never even get off the ground.”
In its controversial 1973 Enmons decision, Mr. Mix explained, a divided U.S. Supreme Court exempted threats, vandalism and violence perpetrated to secure “legitimate” union goals.
Union Goons in Buffalo Accused of Sabotage, Assault With a Knife, Rape Threat
What this means in practice can be illustrated by a federal criminal case, now before U.S. District Judge William Skretny in New York, against 10 former officers and militants of the Buffalo-based Local 17 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Ex-Local 17 President/Business Manager Mark Kirsch and his henchmen are charged with “using violence, death threats, and extreme acts of vandalism” to intimidate nonunion construction workers, managers and executives, as well as their family members, according to a 2010 Buffalo News account of the case.
News reporter Dan Herbeck explained that the alleged conduct includes, for example, “causing $330,000 damage by pouring sand into the engines of construction vehicles, stabbing a construction company owner in the neck, and throwing scaldingly hot coffee at construction workers.”
Union goons are also accused of telling “an official of a Buffalo development company that they were going to his home to sexually assault his wife.”
The vandalism, threats and violence allegedly went on for years and systematically targeted construction employees and companies who wished to remain union free.
Now-retired U.S. Attorney Terrance Flynn, who originally indicted Mr. Kirsch and his cohorts in 2008, has said: “We believe they had a negative financial impact on almost every major construction project in western New York over the past 10 years.”
Union lawyers tacitly concede that any business owner who engaged in conduct similar to what their clients are accused of as a means of scaring off potential competitors could be charged with criminal extortion under the Hobbs Act.
At the same time, Big Labor’s legal strategists insist former Local 17 officers and their toughs cannot be prosecuted under the same law — even if all the charges in the indictment can be proven in court.
High Court Has ‘Decided’ That Union Officers ‘Should Not Be Charged With Extortion’
Just last September, Brian Melber, the lawyer for one of the Local 17 defendants, smugly told News reporter Phil Fairbanks:
“The Supreme Court decided almost 40 years ago that . . . union [officers] should not be charged with extortion” when the motive for their extortionate violence, threats, and vandalism is unionization of nonemployees and firms!
Another union lawyer involved in the case, Mark Mahoney, similarly claimed: “The Supreme Court put a lid on this 35 years ago.”
The national AFL-CIO hierarchy itself tried to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in the Local 17 case apparently also arguing the defendants can’t be prosecuted under the Hobbs Act, but Judge Skretny refused to accept it.
“As shocking as it seems, Big Labor lawyers’ efforts to quash the racketeering case against Local 17 may ultimately prevail in federal court,” commented Mr. Mix. “The case may die before the voluminous evidence is even considered.”
Freedom From Union Violence Act Would Close ‘Lethal Loophole’
Early last year, Judge Skretny enraged the union brass by ruling that the Local 17 case could proceed, despite Enmons, largely because Local 17 union hoodlums were aiming to extort construction employers into signing so-called “pre-hire agreements.”
Employers have the right under federal law to refuse to negotiate with union bosses over “pre-hire agreements,” the judge noted. Therefore, Big Labor violence and threats aimed at getting employers to sign them aren’t protected by Enmons, he ruled.
Union lawyers are now doggedly fighting to get this slight narrowing of Big Labor thugs’ “lethal loophole” overturned. Even if they don’t succeed, the vast majority of union violence perpetrated in our time will continue to receive special legal protection.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Fortunately, since the Supreme Court’s Enmons decision interpreted federal law, not the U.S. Constitution, Congress retains the power to override it legislatively,” Mr. Mix explained.
“And this month GOP Congressman Paul Broun, acting at the behest of his pro-Right to Work Georgia constituents and cooperating closely with the Committee’s legislative staff, is planning to introduce a bill that would at last close the Enmons loophole.
“Mr. Broun’s proposal, known as the Freedom from Union Violence Act, would hold union officials who plan, commit, or foment extortionate violence against a firm’s employees to the same standard as business rivals, gangsters, or anyone else who does the same.”
Massive Mail, Phone And Media Programs Needed to Enlist Support
Passage of this reform won’t be easy, Mr. Mix acknowledged.
“Union-label politicians, led by President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.], will almost certainly oppose the Freedom from Union Violence Act, tooth and nail.
“But Right to Work supporters can’t afford to pass up this fight and let union militants continue getting away with breaking the law.
“For example, in southwestern Washington last September, overpowered police were unable to prevent bat- and ax handle-wielding union toughs from systematically sabotaging a multi-million-dollar grain terminal. No arrests were made at the scene. Union bosses are unlikely even to face charges for orchestrating this attack, although this is evidently exactly what they did.
“That’s why the Committee, despite the uphill battle we face, is launching a full-scale campaign to pass the Freedom from Union Violence Act.
“This year, the Committee plans to contact millions and millions of Americans by e-mail, phone and mail and ask them to sign and return petitions in support of the Broun bill to their congressmen and senators.
“If funds are available, we also hope to run hard-hitting, targeted radio and newspaper ads to overcome Big Labor’s lobbying machine.
“Poll after poll has shown citizens nationwide overwhelmingly support closing the Enmons loophole. That’s why I believe this battle can be won. But to prevail, Right to Work members will have to wage an extended and furious fight.”