GLEN COVE, NY — In an earlier column “Labor
Goons,” I discussed the storm trooper tactics of the Wisconsin public employees
union members. I cited the writings of the late Professor Sylvester
Petro, whose pioneering work explored violence and compulsion as critical
ingredients of the labor union movement.
His work, however, focused primarily on the most common forms of
labor violence. These forms include coercion to force workers to participate
in strikes and other union activities. A fairly benign example is the
use of solid picket lines to prevent workers from crossing them. An
example of a more serious form, drawn from Professor Petro’s
book on the Kohler strike, is the firing of shotguns through the front
windows of the homes of non-striking workers.
A second and fundamentally different form of violence seeks to harm
the employer directly. This form may consist of sabotage or other acts
of violence to enforce boycotts. The idea is that the cost of these
acts will be so great that the employer will capitulate in negotiations
with the union.
There is a third form of union violence, which as far as I can tell,
Professor Petro never addressed. It is a derivative of the second form,
one in which the union members forget the economic reasons and engage
in violence for the sheer thrill of acting violently in concert with
their comrades — and with the knowledge that union activities seldom
receive the punishment they deserve.
Recently, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union
engaged in this form of violence when members broke into a closed port
facility in Seattle at night. They kidnapped and held as hostages four
security guards, cut the brake lines on numerous railroad cars, and
dumped grain on the ground to spoil. Kidnapping night watchmen is not
rationally related to getting better working conditions or higher wages.
Cutting brake lines hurts the railroads more than the employer and
endangers public safety.
I was made aware of this third kind of violence by a student of a
strike against the New York Daily News. During that strike, illegal
secondary actions were taken against candy stores, delicatessens, and
tobacco shops that sold the News. The scholar who told me about this
strike said that the truck drivers he interviewed often spoke enthusiastically
about acts of violence they committed against small store owners of
These acts of violence had lost all connection to the economic objectives
of the strike and had become simple acts of mob racism. A famous photograph
of a double lynching in Marion, Indiana, in August 1930 shows the crowd
turning the lynching of two black teenagers into a celebration. A few
of the women seem to be attempting to become the stars of the photograph.
This attitude of solidarity in violent crime often permeates union
violence if it continues unabated.
The kidnappers of the Seattle night watchmen are no longer merely
union goons. They more closely resemble the Ku Klux Klan than the Brown
Shirts in Madison, Wisconsin.
The members of the labor movement are responsible for this lynch mob
mentality. They sing stirring songs about solidarity and subordinating
oneself to the will of the labor bosses. They call those who do not
go along “scabs.” In short, they demand that there be no
dissent to mob rule, and they stigmatize anyone who dares to dissent.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2011
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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