Federal prosecutors filed criminal conspiracy charges against ten members of a Philadelphia-area Ironworkers Local 401 union for violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The seven-count indictment alleges that the union members conspired to commit arson, including the creation of “goon squads” to set fires, violent physical assault on workers, and sabotage of property, all in order to intimidate contractors into hiring union employees. Four of the defendants, including some who ran the union’s daily operations, face mandatory minimum sentences of 35 years. Sometimes calling themselves The Helpful Union Guys (or THUGs), the indictment listed a number of specific actions taken in the name of the union, including “assaulting nonunion employees with baseball bats, slashing the tires of vehicles, smashing vehicles with crow bars, cutting and changing the locks of construction sites, filling the locks with super glue, damaging construction equipment, stealing construction materials, and otherwise sabotaging the construction site.”
The Operating Engineers Local 324 in Michigan has started publishing the names and places of employment of workers who chose to opt-out of union representation after the state became the nation’s 24th Right-to-Work state in 2012. The quarterly list, called the “Freeloaders List” is published on the union’s website and seen by some as a way of publicly scolding and intimidating employees who are seen as disloyal for exercising their legal right to reject union membership. Other unions in Michigan have published similar lists despite the fact that such public exposure puts the employees and their families at risk of harassment or retaliation.
A report issued by the US Chamber of Commerce calls the latest wave of worker centers “union fronts” that serve the purpose of evading labor law and offsetting a decline in dues-paying members. The study, titled “The New Model of Representation: An Overview of Leading Worker Centers,” specifically identified the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s financial disclosure report filing requirements and the NLRA’s prohibition of certain picketing activities as areas where unions are skirting compliance. For example, the report singled out the UFCW’s support of OUR Walmart, alleging that the UFCW falsely claimed OUR Walmart as its subsidiary in DOL filings, therefore bypassing the need for OUR Walmart’s financial disclosures. The report also highlighted organized actions by worker centers like protests and strikes that the Chamber alleges are staffed by “[s]urrogates supplied to the organization by labor unions.” The report stated that the worker centers were effectively advocating on behalf of employees without actually representing a majority of the employees.