The benefits of union membership are numerous, but unions were never conceived to give members or leaders the right to break criminal laws. Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives just recently passed a bill that is as necessary as it is surprising.
(Photo Credit: John Dawson/Flickr)
Our story begins with ten members of Ironworkers Local 401 being federally charged with arson and racketeering, among other activities. In one terrifying event, a Quaker meetinghouse was burned to ground; it was targeted by union members, according to authorities, because it was being constructed with non-union labor. The alleged perpetrators have been arrested.
However, loopholes that protect union leaders from prosecution for behaviors that others would be charged for do exist. According to BizJournal, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report exposed several portions of Pennsylvania law where criminal actions were immunized from prosecution or conviction if they occur during, in the course of, or in connection with a labor dispute. These actions include stalking, harassment, and even, in some cases, making threats.
Those who do not want the laws changed argue that these loopholes provide important free speech protections for unions, especially when trying to demonstrate or disseminate information. However, not being responsible for harassing behavior is a slippery slope that leads some to commit truly violent acts.
Pennsylvania House Bill No.1154 passed by a 115-74 vote, and will now head to the senate.
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Do you think the laws should be changed to close loopholes for union bosses, or should some behaviors remain protected? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.