Sarina Rose is commonly followed home. As she approaches work, she is taunted by protestors. Her children, eight and ten years old, have been photographed at their bus stop and followed at weekend sporting events. One time, a man cursed at her in public, formed a gun with his hands, pointed it at her, and said, “Bang, bang, bang.”
But Rose can’t take any legal action against her harassers, who are union members displeased by her company’s use of non-union labor.
Rose lives in Pennsylvania and is an executive at Post Bros., a construction company building apartments in Philadelphia. Under normal circumstances, she could file a lawsuit against her aggressors for stalking and harassment. Unfortunately for her, there is an exemption in Pennsylvania law that protects union members from being prosecuted for stalking, harassment, or even threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
“We think the law works,” Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale said to reporters last week, explaining that the exemption is necessary to protect labor free speech rights.
Miller, however, compares the law to “a gateway drug.” “If we make certain people exempt, it will lead to other things,” he tells me. “If you allow intimidation, stalking, and harassment, . . . it will lead to the next step, to things that are truly illegal.”
In the three separate sections of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code that describe sanctions, ranging from “summary offense” to “felony of the second degree,” for the three categories of crime, an additional clause rules: “This section shall not apply to lawful conduct by a party to a labor dispute.”
Frank Snyder, secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, tells the Lehigh Valley Morning Call the exemptions protect free speech and claims National Labor Relations Board figures “show employers routinely, and with total disregard for the law, intimidate, harass, stalk and even fire people who try to form unions.”
Bloomingdale told the Pottsville Mercury that the three exemptions were put in place “with bipartisan support” in 1993, the year Democrats gained control of the state legislature for the first time in decades.
For Rose, the origins matter little. Because the union members never actually physically harmed her, and because the law specifically exempts union officials from prosecution for stalking and harassment, she did not have sufficient grounds for a lawsuit.
When Rose did file suit against Edward Sweeney, the long-time ironworker official who had been harassing her for months, Sweeney cited the labor exemptions and was found not guilty. Municipal Judge Charles Hayden reportedly chastised both parties for “wasting my time.”
Miller’s bill is currently in the Pennsylvania State House.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.