Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

End union thuggery

By Katie Packer Gage

There is something gravely wrong in our nation when government sanctions the intimidation and bullying of one group of people by another. But that's exactly what is happening in Pennsylvania.

Sarina Rose, an executive vice president for development for Post Brothers Apartments, was stalked and harassed by union organizers. Protesters persistently followed her throughout her private life, even taking photos of her children, ages 8 and 11, at their bus stop in Abington. The situation dramatically escalated when "one union leader loudly cursed at her in front of a packed restaurant and mimicked shooting her," according to an Inquirer report last month.

What had Rose done wrong? Nothing, but she was part of a company that elected to hire a mix of union as well as nonunion labor to complete a construction job.

Labor's retribution was largely aimed at coercing a reversal in the company's hiring decisions or, at the very least, frightening future employers into using only union contractors. These actions of intimidation and outright threats were considered unlawful by those who heard about them, necessitating immediate action by local law enforcement.

Unfortunately, the authorities could do nothing. In Pennsylvania, union workers are allowed to act with impunity against citizens, and it has been approved by both the legislative and judicial branches of government.

As The Inquirer reported: "Thanks to a little-known provision protecting parties in labor disputes from prosecution for stalking, harassment, and terroristic threats, Rose said, she was left powerless to stop the nearly constant baiting. The men who dogged her at all hours walked free." This case, and the subsequent media attention, brought badly needed attention to an arcane exemption in the law that demands correction by elected officials who are interested in defending their constituents.

In August, some members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly introduced legislation to remove the exemptions permitting certain types of harassment in labor disputes. Unfortunately, the bill has not progressed since receiving committee approval in October, in large part because the state Fraternal Order of Police came out aggressively against it.

The FOP sent a letter to state representatives that bizarrely stated that the anti-stalking legislation "upsets this long-standing balancing of interests, and directly inserts local police departments into local labor disputes, by removing three exceptions that recognize the unique nature of picketing activity."

Stalking, harassment, and terrorist threats can hardly be characterized as "picketing." One would think those entrusted with protecting Pennsylvanians would understand that.

Fortunately, we do not live in a country where veiled threats of murder, like those directed at Rose, can be made without someone standing up for the rule of law. We live in a country that requires equal protection for everyone. Pennsylvania law, however, denies such protections to victims of union thuggery under the false pretext of protecting free speech.

The FOP should know better. And, truth be told, the concerns expressed by the FOP about the resources that would be required to protect citizens targeted by union organizers do not serve as an adequate reason for this issue to go unaddressed. The state legislature must step forward and stand up for Pennsylvania citizens, while giving law enforcement the resources to stop union-orchestrated coercion.

In March 2013, I addressed this issue in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "This special 'carve-out' grants union organizers the ability to disrupt the business of ... local employer[s], trespass on their property, and violate their personal property rights. In essence, it gives unions license to 'obsessively pursue' individuals 'to the point of harassment.'"

One year later, a face has been placed on this story. Rose and others like her should never have to fear for their safety. And government should never sanction policies that allow people like Rose to be tormented.

Pennsylvania's elected officials should immediately pass legislation removing any exemptions to stalking and intimidation laws. Protecting the state's citizens is an obligation, not a choice.

Katie Packer Gage is a spokeswoman for the Workforce Fairness Institute.

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