In a trial that began this week at a federal court in Buffalo, N.Y., union lawyers are insisting that a four-decade-old U.S. Supreme Court decision gives construction union bosses a license to use violence and threats as organizing tactics without being prosecuted for extortion under the federal Hobbs Act.

There is no question whatsoever that the High Court’s 1973 Enmons decision exempts union thuggish union bosses from federal prosecution for violence and threats to extract from unionized employers privileges over which the employers are legally required to negotiate, such as forced union dues.

But union lawyers are now contending that Enmons must be applied even to extortionate violence committed against nonunion businesses whose owners and/or managers aren’t legally required to bargain with union bosses over anything.

In the news article linked below, Phil Fairbanks quotes one Empire State union lawyer’s blunt summary of how Big Labor interprets Enmons:

“If you’re looking at an illegal means and an illegal end, you’re going to be in trouble,” said Michael T. Harren, a Rochester lawyer who represents unions. “But if you’re looking at an illegal means and a legal end, you’ll be OK.”

What the Buffalo case, which addresses years of threats, vandalism and assaults allegedly orchestrated by former bosses of Local 17 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, actually underscores is how important it is for the U.S. Congress to consider and pass the Freedom from Union Violence Act  (H.R. 2021), which would overturn Enmons and close the so-called “legitimate union objectives” loophole in the federal Hobbs Act.

U.S. District Judge William Skretny unhesitatingly bows to the U.S. Supreme Court precedent stating that violence inflicted to secure “legitimate union objectives” is exempt from prosecution under the Hobbs Act. But his understanding of “legitimate” is too narrow to satisfy Big Labor. Image: Vasiliy Baziuk.

Legality of union violence at heart of court case

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