It's well-known that labor disputes can result in violence against persons and property in workplaces in the United States. But what isn't as well known is that in some cases, the courts and the laws are giving labor unions license to harm and harass companies and workers, according to a report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Workforce Freedom Initiative.
Entitled "Sabotage, Stalking and Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions", the report looks at how both courts and some states have turned a blind eye to threatening and dangerous behaviors, going against the growing concerns over combating violence and threatening behaviors in the American workplace.
The report begins by tracing the history of state exemptions to a 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court (United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396) which held that ruled that violence in pursuit of union demands cannot be prosecuted under federal law, arguing that violent activities, when used during a strike by workers of the Gulf States Utilities Company, did not meet the standard of "wrongful" conduct needed to convict in a federal extortion case. From there, a number of states are called out for giving unions a pass on threatening and violent conduct in workplaces.
The report cites the example of California, Illinois, Nevada and Pennsylvania as states which exempted unions from stalking laws. The Pennsylvania law expressly states that stalking bans “shall not apply
to conduct by a party to a labor dispute.”
The report points to California as a state which has gone out of its way to give unions immunity in its criminal code. In the report are several examples of laws regarding trespassing in California in which labor union activity is exempted. While California law expressly prohibits the “willfully blocking the free movement of another person” of a public transit system facility or vehicle with a fines of up to $400 and 90 days in the county jail, it exempts those conducting activities related to collective bargaining disputes.
Further in the report, California and Wisconsin state laws are examined with regard to sabotage and workplace threats, and even civil rights are negotiable when it comes to ensuring that organized labor gets what it wants. According to the report, West Virginia's civil rights laws specify that they cannot be construed in a manner that would to “impede or to interfere with any person conducting labor union or labor union organizing activities.”