By Carl Horowitz/National Legal and Policy Center
Labor unions in this country for nearly four decades have operated with a grant of near-immunity from the consequences of intimidating employers and non-joining workers or destroying their property. An ongoing federal racketeering and extortion case against upstate New York’s International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 17 is underscoring how readily union attorneys rationalize their clients’ “right” to terrorize. The case has taken on an added significance in light of legislation recently introduced to close this loophole, a product of a misguided Supreme Court ruling. Even more noteworthy, one of the attorneys for the local is a former law partner of Mark Pearce, the latter recently becoming chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It’s a small world.
The Lake View, N.Y.-based Operating Engineers Local 17 (Erie County) is a Buffalo-area construction union with a taste for menacing people they don’t like, especially if they happen to be nonunion contractors or their employees. It’s also a union that for the last few years has had to answer for its behavior. During predawn hours of April 8, 2008, as Union Corruption Update noted at the time, federal and state law enforcement agents arrested a dozen union members, including Local 17 President Mark Kirsch. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.