Union Violence Escalates

The Daily Citizen in Searcy, Arkansas reports that “[v]iolent incidents at the Kohler factory in Searcy escalated over the weekend after the labor union withdrew three of four charges before the Federal Labor Relations Board. Members of the United Auto Workers Local 1000 rejected a proposed contract Dec. 9 and went on strike at the stainless steel sink factory. Replacement workers have been hired by Kohler. One of those new workers, Jon David Hicks, was injured by what he said were the actions of a union member walking the picket line.” The article continues:

On March 21, at 8:03 p.m. Hicks was exiting the driveway of the Kohler factory at Beebe-Capps Expressway on his new motorcycle.

“I saw this guy lunge at me,” Hicks said. “Instinctively, I swerved to miss him. Next thing I know, I’m laying on the ground, pulling my helmet off, and there is a first responder standing over me.”

Hicks went into the inside lane and struck an eastbound truck driven by Patrick Parrott. He was transported to the White County Medical Center and treated for a broken collarbone and a bruised right side.

“If I hadn’t been wearing my helmet and jacket I’d be dead right now,” Hicks said.

Hicks wasn’t alone:

Another replacement worker, who asked their name be withheld in fear of retaliation, told The Daily Citizen what they had experienced crossing the picket line.

“They do everything in their power so we will run over them,” the Kohler employee said. “They put nails in the driveway. I’m one of the Maytag people that got laid off. The unemployment office didn’t give us a choice to take this job. They told us if we didn’t take this job we wouldn’t have unemployment.”

According to this man, 20 to 30 percent of the replacement workers are former Maytag workers.

A second temporary worker, who also asked their name be withheld, described what it was like to cross the picket line.

“They follow people home and spray paint their vehicles,” the worker said. “They scream obscenities and hit my car with their signs. They’re being down right vicious.”

A striker who was walking the picket line Monday and who refused to give his name, said he saw a replacement worker flash a gun last week.

According to a Searcy police report, a black male in a Chevrolet Tahoe pointed a handgun at strikers. One witness told police, the man with the gun said, “I’ve got something to take care of you” as he held up the handgun.

On Friday, police reports show three other incidents occurred.

A Kohler employee had the right side mirror broken off her vehicle, causing $200 in damage. The suspect was wearing a black jacket with white stripes.

Another Kohler employee said a small dent was put in the passenger door of his car, knuckle prints were put in the trunk lid and a sign was used to scratch the trunk lid. Damage was estimated at $250.

A picketer said he was hit by the mirror of a small four-door black car occupied by two white females.

On Saturday, a man reported strikers had dented his vehicle with a ball bearing, broke the mirror and dented the hood. Damage was estimated at $1,000. Another employee said two small dents that appeared to be from a pellet gun were made in his car, causing $1,000 in damage. Replacement workers have also said screws have littered the entrance to Kohler as they enter.

Union president David Smith said he had no knowledge of the nails thrown in the driveway, but had not told the picketers to not do that.

“I didn’t see anybody do it,” Smith said. “How about that. That’s as far as I can be truthful about it.”

Smith said he had never asked picketers if they had thrown nails in the driveway.

“I’ve heard of things going on but personally I haven’t done it,” Smith said. “I didn’t tell them to do it but I didn’t tell them not to.”

As union president, Smith said he was in charge of the picketers. A meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Smith said, in which he plans to tell the strikers that if they have been doing anything violent it needs to stop.

Under the Supreme Court’s 1973 Enmons decision, vandalism, assault, and even murder by union officials are exempt from federal anti-extortion law. As long as the violence is aimed at obtaining property for which the union can assert a “lawful claim” — for example, wage or benefit increases — the violence is deemed to be in furtherance of “legitimate” union objectives. By the Court’s peculiar logic, such violence does not count as extortion.

The result has been an epidemic of union-related violence. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) has recorded thousands and thousands of incidents of violence from public news reports. Most acts of violence go unreported in the media. For example, in the Daily News Strike in New York City there were over a thousand “police blotter” items relating to the strike, but only a couple of dozen incidents that were reported on in the press. Using this ratio, it is possible that there have been, literally, over 100,000 incidents of violence and property damage during labor disputes over the last 20 years.