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GOP Rep Introduces Bill To Prosecute Union Workers Who Attack Other Workers

By  Hank Berrien
Torso of a man with yellow hardhat and blue work shirt
Photo by tacojim/GettyImages

On Tuesday, a bill was introduced in Congress that would permit the prosecution of union workers who used violence against other workers.

Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL) introduced the Freedom from Union Violence Act (H.R. 4256), which states:

Except as provided in subsection (c), whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion, or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section, shall be fined not more than $100,000, imprisoned for a term of not more than 20 years, or both.

Subsection (c) reads, “Subsection (a) does not apply to any conduct that—(A) is incidental to otherwise peaceful picketing during the course of a labor dispute; (B) consists solely of minor bodily injury, or minor damage to property, or threat or fear of such minor injury or damage; and (C) is not part of a pattern of violent conduct or of coordinated violent activity.”

Greg Mourad, vice-president of the 2.8-million-member National Right to Work Committee, applauded Rooney on Wednesday, stating:

Substantive action is necessary toward seriously addressing the continuing occurrence of union violence in order to protect rank-and-file workers across America. The House should work to pass the Freedom from Union Violence Act (FUVA), a measure introduced by Congressman Rooney yesterday.

In United States v. Enmons (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court held that strike-related violence “used to gain legitimate union objectives” cannot be prosecuted under the Hobbs Anti-Extortion Act, even though the Act’s framers sought to criminalize the obstruction of interstate commerce through violence, threat, or coercion. As a result, thousands of acts of union violence, much of which is directed against non-striking workers, go unpunished.

One recent example of such union sanctioned violence occurred in Boston, as union operatives targeted the cast and crew of the popular reality cooking show, Top Chef, with harassment, violence, intimidation, and derogatory threats. Ultimately the judge’s instructions to the jury, based on the Enmons precedent, let the perpetrators off the hook.

Unfortunately, that is not an isolated incident. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research has recorded almost 10,000 media-reported incidents of union violence since 1975. Experts on labor and strike-related violence estimate that unreported acts of harassment, vandalism, and violence could swell that figure to 100,000 or more. The Freedom from Union Violence Act would close the Enmons loophole and remove the unique immunity from federal prosecution that union officials currently enjoy.

In July, Rooney introduced the Do Your Job Act of 2019 (H.R. 4090), which would prevent public employees from using union “official time” throughout the federal workforce. The National Right To Work Committee explained, “Under official time, union officials in the federal workforce have been allowed to conduct union business while ‘on the clock.’ This means that every year, millions of taxpayer dollars are used to pay for union activity instead of the public services that those dollars are intended for. This problem traces back to 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed the Civil Service Reform Act. That bill, among other things, contained a provision that officially authorized the use of official time by federal employees.”

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