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With a national focus on union-related policies in recent years, including Wisconsin’s recent recall election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wanted to examine state laws and how they relate to labor unions.
“What we found was pretty surprising,” said Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative with the Chamber, “in a number of cases there are state laws governing criminal activity that actually carve out a union exemption from those laws. Other state policies seem to illustrate a particular favoritism toward the unions.”
In Pennsylvania, the report said there is a provision related to anti-stalking law.
“Obviously the thought of someone following you around in a harassing or threatening manner would be downright scary for most Americans, yet in four states, including Pennsylvania, we found that the anti-stalking laws included an exemption for union activity.”
But, the Pennsylvania AFLCIO said that doesn’t mean it gives union members the green light to harass people.
“All it does is have an exemption for any kind of federally protected activity, which means the right to assemble, the right to freedom of speech, all those things that are guaranteed in the constitution. State law certainly can’t exempt federal law,” said PA AFLCIO President Rick Bloomingdale
He added, the exemption doesn’t allow for illegal activity like slashing tires and things that don’t really happen in labor disputes anymore. Spencer disagreed, and said there are numerous questionable happenings regarding labor disputes, including allegations of stalking and harassment by union members in a Philadelphia labor dispute.
The Chamber report also cites an anti-injunction statute in Pennsylvania. That is a prohibition on court injunctions to stop an unlawful conspiracy in a labor dispute. For example, according the Chamber, the state’s courts have refused to intervene in labor disputes when union representatives blocked delivery trucks, tampered with locks, flattened tires, and followed people home.
The AFLCIO’s Bloomingdale said the report is just a scare tactic, and a way for business interests to further demonize unions and work to do away with them. “They always hide it in the words “less regulations” but does that mean no health and safety on the job? Does that mean no right to unionize? Which means you have no protections at work? And basically repeal the 20th Century.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the report is not meant to demonize unions, but rather point out inequities in certain state laws. The full report can be found on their website.