Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed a bill into law amending the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. The law eliminates the “union intimidation” loophole and removes certain exceptions that had applied to crimes committed during the course of or in connection with a labor dispute.
Sections 2709(e), 2709.1(e), and 2715 (c.2) of the Crimes Code deal with the crimes of harassment, stalking, and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prior to the recent amendments, a perpetrator could escape conviction for one of these crimes merely by relying upon the fact that his or her misconduct was committed in furtherance of a union’s labor dispute with an employer.
The impetus for this much-needed legislation may have been the announcement in February 2014 of federal indictments against 10 Ironworkers Local 401 leaders related to the December 2012 burning and vandalism of a Quaker meetinghouse construction site in Philadelphia. The U.S. Attorney alleged that Local 401 representatives set fires, started riots, and took crowbars to non-union contractors who had ignored threats against hiring non-union employees. Several union leaders had earlier been acquitted of charges brought under the state crimes code based upon their reliance on the labor dispute exceptions referenced above. In July 2015, a Philadelphia labor leader was sentenced to over 19 years in prison for his role in overseeing this “years-long campaign of sabotage, arson, and intimidation to keep members of his Ironworkers Local 401 employed.”
It is anticipated that the recently-enacted amendments will be of great assistance to those employers, typically, though not always, non-union, who have been subjected in the past to extreme acts of misconduct as exemplified by the Philadelphia incidents. Too often innocent employers and employees have suffered the consequences of vandalism, violence, stalking, etc., merely because they have lawfully desired to maintain their non-union status. Hopefully, as these changes to the law become publicized and better known to union leaders and members, the new law will deter such individuals from committing such serious crimes and acts of violence against innocent persons.