In Philadelphia, unions are notorious for their violence and vandalism, but arrests are scarce. Union leadership hasn’t done much to prevent criminal activities. In some instances, the unions have seemingly protected individual members who harmed people or property. In other instances, the union leaders, themselves, may be involved. The behavior of Philadelphia’s unions — and the fact that they have, by and large, gotten away with it — hasn’t surprised many National Review Online readers.
But this might. Did you know that federal law makes it very difficult to go after a union as an organizational entity, even when it’s suspected of violence or vandalism:
If another type of organization were using tactics similar to those employed by Philadelphia’s unions, it could be investigated under the Federal Anti-Racketeering Act of 1934 or the Hobbs Act, which prohibits the “wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear,” and which defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent . . . under color of official right.”
But in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Enmons that union officials cannot be prosecuted or even investigated for violence or intimidation under the Hobbs Act if they are carrying out “legitimate union business.” That ruling is “a smoking gun as to how this works,” says Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work.
“If [union officials] are trying to achieve a ‘legitimate objective’ — i.e., a pay raise or getting employers to hire more union workers — they believe that the ends justify the means. That’s basically what the Court said,” Mix explains. The Enmons ruling “gives union officials a get-out-of-jail-free card to invoke their will on independent employees, because that’s who it’s all targeted against. . . . It gives them license to intimidate, coerce, and even use violence to get their way.”