‘Incidental’ union violence

Steven Miller

Here’s a big surprise. Violence accompanied Nevada’s latest Teamster strike.

Are these guys dogged by bad luck, or what? Seems like every Teamster strike since the dawn of time has been “accompanied by violence.” What a surprise that, this month, it happened once again.

What’s that? You say such violence may not be a coincidence? Well, you might want to challenge the relentless naiveté at large in TV Land. An example is the account that KLAS-TV Channel 8 aired on September 9.

That was the day a judge ordered the union to stop picketing several Las Vegas locations. Multiple complaints District Judge Stewart Bell had received about Local 631 said members were carrying guns, cutting brake lines on trucks, throwing down sharpened nails in driveways, spitting on people, vandalizing property—and blocking cars entering and leaving convention sites.

On the last charge, however, KLAS-TV reporter Cindy Cesare saw the problem differently. In her eyes, it was that non-union folks were disobeying the taunting union picketers.

“The Teamster’s rule,” reported Cesare, “is that they have to cross the entrance into these parking lots three times before allowing each car or truck to pull in.”

The Teamsters’ rule?!

Since when do picketers who plant themselves on a sidewalk get to set “the rules” for men and women on legitimate business?

Clearly Ms. Cesare is oblivious to the rank harassment inherent in making a driver sit and idle his or her engine while a line of parading picketers makes its way back and forth in front of the vehicles three different times. Perhaps she’d grasp the nature of the abuse more quickly if, each time she sought to go about her business, a thrice-parading picket line blocked her. Or maybe something else—incidents like those that concerned Judge Bell, above—would be required before the light of understanding begins to twinkle.

The fact is, the long history of labor disputes in this country is a long history of union violence. No scholars question this; only the interpretations vary.

A widespread view, promoted by unions and academic apologists, is that the violence that so often accompanies labor disputes is merely “incidental”—and a small price to pay for the “benefits” of unionization.

But, notes Thomas DiLorenzo, economics professor at Maryland’s Loyola College, “a basic understanding of the elementary economics of unionism, and of the history of unionism, explains why violence against competitors has always been an inherent feature of unionism….

“Historically, the main ‘weapon’ that unions have employed to try to push wages above the levels that employees could get by bargaining for themselves on the free market without a union has been the strike. But in order for the strike to work, and for unions to have any significance at all, some form of coercion or violence must be used to keep competing workers out of the labor market.”

DiLorenzo—writing recently on the Mises Institute website, www.mises.org—goes on to quote Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor:

“A union’s problem is painfully obvious: organized strikers must shut down the enterprise, close the market to everyone else—uncooperative workers, union members, disenchanted former strikers, and employers—in order to force wages and working conditions above free-market rates. If too many individuals defy the strikers . . . then unionists often resort to force. Unionists ultimately cannot impose noncompetitive wage rates . . . unless they can prevent employers from hiring consenting adults on terms that are mutually satisfactory

“Progressive” lawmakers have long secretly known that the union-organizing victories they desire require intimidation and violence. The Norris-LaGuardia Act, passed into law in 1932, constitutes irrefutable evidence.

Sections 7 through 12 of the law severely limited the federal courts from responding to cases of overt union violence or vandalism—even when no other form of relief was available to employers or non-union employees. Bizarre section 7(c) prohibited federal judges from enjoining violent mob activity if such injunctions would constitute a “greater injury” to those perpetrating the crimes! Section 8 blocked injunctions against crime and violence if a business or employer “has failed to make every reasonable effort to settle [a] dispute….”

In short, the victim of a mugging must first prove that he made every effort to negotiate with his muggers, and then that the harm he’ll suffer from being mugged is greater than the harm the muggers will suffer from having to cease their crimes!

“Incidental violence” in a strike?

It’s not incidental at all.

Steven Miller is policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Steven Miller

Senior Vice President, Nevada Journal Managing Editor

Steven Miller is Nevada Journal Managing Editor, Emeritus, and has been with the Institute since 1997.

Steven graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy from Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna). Before joining NPRI, Steven worked as a news reporter in California and Nevada, and a political cartoonist in Nevada, Hawaii and North Carolina. For 10 years he ran a successful commercial illustration studio in New York City, then for five years worked at First Boston Credit Suisse in New York as a technical analyst. After returning to Nevada in 1991, Steven worked as an investigative reporter before joining NPRI.