Opinion: Close union loophole in federal anti-extortion law

Mark Mix

Arson. Vandalism. Assault.

Business as usual for Ironworkers Local 401.

“You should be able to do whatever you want” to non-unionized workers and businesses, said Local 401 boss Joseph Dougherty, who was charged in a federal racketeering case with conspiring to commit violent acts against non-union job workers and job sites.

U.S. Supreme Court.

“And it should be legal,” he added.

As sad and as sickening as it is, Dougherty’s attitude reflects existing federal law.

At the federal level, extortion is prosecuted under the 1946 Hobbs Act, which makes violent extortion a federal crime. The crime can involve actual violence or the mere threat of violence, and for years any individual or group who committed such acts was held responsible.

But in a 1973 United States Supreme Court ruling, union bosses gained an exemption for themselves in the Enmons case. Enmons put a stop to all federal prosecutions for extortion committed for “legitimate union objectives,” regardless of what means the thugs use to get what they want.

This effectively elevated union bosses above the law and paved the way for Big Labor bosses to run campaigns of extortion at their discretion. These extortion conspiracies can include violence, vandalism and sometimes even murder of any citizen who dares stand in their way.

A U.S. district judge ruled against Dougherty, stating that because his targets were non-union, his actions did not constitute legitimate union objectives. But two years after Dougherty was convicted, a federal appellate court ruled that securing a deal to “turn around nonunion jobs to become union jobs…is a legitimate labor objective.” A thuggish union boss who did today exactly what Dougherty did a few years ago could easily get away with it.

Four Teamsters union bosses in Boston used the Enmons defense to escape punishment for threatening and assaulting the cast and crew of Top Chef. The Teamsters were not hired to drive trucks normally driven by production assistants, and so they terrorized host Padma Lakshmi and promised to “smash [her] pretty little face in.”

Similarly, a pair of union toughs in northern Indiana led an extortion operation and brutally beat a D5 Iron Works employee at a church-owned construction site. They shattered his jaw and repeatedly beat another worker with wooden boards.

But instead of taking action themselves, the local police department reported the incident to the U.S. Labor and Justice Departments, where Obama-appointed officials sat on the case for years. The two lawless union stooges were finally indicted in 2018 but have repeatedly sought dismissal of the case, citing the Enmons loophole.

Cases like this have been going on for decades and are not isolated.

More than 200 Americans have been killed in union boss-instigated violence, including Eddie York, a father of three gunned down at a mine in 1993, with three eyewitnesses, but no murder conviction.

There was no justice for Eddie York’s family, but fortunately there is a way to prevent the murders, assaults and threats that have gone unpunished for decades.

Congress must pass the Freedom from Union Violence Act, which would amend the Hobbs Act to close the union bosses’ violence loophole once and for all.

UAW President Gary Jones said automakers are "on notice" over the closing of plants and shipping jobs to Mexico. He speaks Wednesday at the 2019 special convention, starting the chant 'We Are One' during his keynote speech.

Violence, the threat of violence and the wrongful non-violent use of fear and intimidation by union thugs should be illegal. No exceptions.

The spreading UAW corruption scandal shows that union bosses often act as though they are above the law.

But when it comes to violence and extortion, because of the Enmons loophole, they often are.

The Freedom from Union Violence Act would protect workers, business owners and anyone who dares to refuse to kowtow to union demands, allowing them to do their jobs without fear of violence. Congress should pass it now before union thugs have the chance to strike again and go unpunished.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.