Bid to remove Pa. exemption in labor disputes advances


Pennsylvania union bosses have used a little-known legal exemption to avoid prosecution for stalking and harassment.  With the recent spate of violence in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania House has voted to remove that exemption, but notably no politicians from Philadelphia voting in favor of revocation the exemption.  Reflecting upon the recent spate of litigation brought against Philadelphia  Jeremy Roebuck has the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Pennsylvania House backed legislation Wednesday that would remove a little-known provision in state law protecting parties in labor disputes from prosecution for stalking and harassment.

The 115-74 vote – delivered with no floor debate – came three weeks after a federal case against members of a Philadelphia ironworkers’ union shined a spotlight on the unusual carve-out in the state’s criminal law.

State House Republicans carried the bill, with only 10 of the body’s 92 Democrats, none from Philadelphia, voting to support it.

“It was difficult to get many people to pay attention to this before the ironworkers case,” said State Rep. Ron Miller (R., York), the bill’s sponsor. “The attention around that case definitely helped round up the votes we needed.”

The decades-old exemption came to Miller’s attention in 2012, after a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report cited the provision as one of a handful of state laws across the country that appeared to favor organized labor.

But despite a House Judiciary Committee vote backing Miller’s proposal in October, the bill stalled for months.

Critics questioned whether the measure was necessary, saying no arcane law would prevent a court from convicting individuals charged with clearly criminal conduct.

The ironworkers case federal prosecutors unsealed in Philadelphia last month challenged that argument.

Authorities alleged that several top leaders of Ironworkers Local 401 carried out a years-long campaign of extortion, harassment, and arson against contractors who refused to hire the union’s members.

One of the men charged – union business agent Edward Sweeney – had successfully used the state’s labor carve-out to defend himself against stalking and harassment charges in Philadelphia Municipal Court three months before his arrest in the federal case.