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The Confederate Lawyer
September 23, 2011

Labor Goons: Part II
by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

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 Asian ancestry.

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.

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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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