Labor watchdogs held a candlelight vigil outside AFL-CIO headquarters to commemorate victims of union intimidation and violence on Friday afternoon.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, decried union intimidation, assault, arson, and murder, while standing next to a giant black coffin. He said that while Labor Day is a time to honor America’s workforce, the nation should not forget the dark side of labor tactics.
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"On this Labor Day we should also recognize the victims of union violence … those who suffered from union militants and union toughs," he said.
There have been more than 50,000 documented cases of union violence over the past 40 years, according to Mix. The cases range from worksite vandalism to verbal and written threats to incidents of assault and murder.
There have been several high profile acts of life-threatening sabotage and violence over the past two years.
Striking Connecticut nursing home workers allegedly mixed up records and identity documents for elderly patients, some of whom suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A Philadelphia construction union allegedly set fire to a Quaker Meetinghouse for using a non-union labor and another Philadelphia union assaulted independent workers for not joining. Striking longshoreman shut down the Port of Portland and held security guards hostage.
"Union violence and intimidation are not rare; unfortunately, they are a big part of big labor’s playbook," he said.
The recent violence pales in comparison to several deadly historical union acts. In 1986, disgruntled Teamsters set fire to Puerto Rico’s DuPont Plaza hotel, killing nearly 100 people. Protesters held photos of the charred aftermath.
Another protester waved a poster with a picture of a body bag: "Official contract negotiating tactic," it read.
Allison Doyal, 23, said she was inspired to join the protest because of her father’s relations with a Florida teacher’s union.
"It always enraged me that he couldn’t negotiate his own contracts and that crappy teachers couldn’t be fired," she said. "They’re not for children."
The protest drew about 10 individuals holding white candles. Mike Jones, a 30-year-old Alexandria, Va., resident, said he came to show support for Mix’s group after spending more than two years with the Teamsters.
"I always felt that if unions were so great, why do they have to force people to join them," he said. "The stuff union bosses can get away with is horrible."
Union officials are exempt from federal laws against extortion; 11 states also provide labor groups with leeway to stalk, harass, and even threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction, according to Mix.
The Supreme Court enshrined these rights in the 1973 in a 5-4 ruling that allowed the "use of violence … to achieve legitimate union objectives." Mix called on Congress to pass the Freedom from Union Violence Act, which would take away those exemptions. The legislation has been introduced into congress for more than 25 years without moving past the committee level.
"The United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal that every man is equal under the law; no union official should be able to get away with crimes for which you and I would be prosecuted," Mix said. "We will never end big labor’s culture of violence until we close the union violence loophole."