Bully Pulpit

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Losing the policy debate, unions resorting to violence

Bully n. pl. bul-lies: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing; a hired ruffian; a thug; v, to treat in an over bearing or intimidating manner.

The subject of bullying has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, focused mostly on K-12 schools where children all-too-often are the subject of harassment by their fellow students. In some cases the emotional toll of bullying has driven youngsters to suicide. These highly publicized cases have driven parents and the general public to demand more action from our schools to address the problem.

But what happens when bullying occurs among adults? What happens when bullying tactics are employed by those who don’t get their way in a business deal, or who lose a contentious public policy debate? In that context, the public and the news media tend to turn a blind eye or even condone such tactics.

Bullying and thuggery have for generations been a tactic employed by organized labor, especially when all other forms of persuasion have failed. Philadelphia, in particular, has a long history of labor violence. Union thugs have been known to sabotage work sites, and even to inflict serious physical harm on those who refuse to give into their demands.

The most recent example of this came shortly before Christmas in Chestnut Hill where a Quaker meetinghouse is being built. Destruction of equipment and property belonging to a private company is bad enough. That the damage was done to a church – especially a Quaker congregation best known for its religious commitment to non-violence, makes the act especially appalling.

Philadelphia police have determined that the vandalism, which caused over $500,000 in damage, was definitely union-related. This particular construction site was targeted because the company, E. Allen Reeves, is a merit shop or non-union construction firm. Unions – violently at times – work hard to prevent merit shop contractors from getting business. This stems from a union mindset that only they have the right to work in Pennsylvania. Merit shop companies don’t have to fund bloated union bureaucracies, therefore they consistently under-bid union contractors for projects.

Robert Reeves, president of E. Allen Reeves, reports that several days prior to the vandalism union representatives had visited the site seeking work, and left uttering threats when their request was denied. A short time later the cab of a crane was arsoned and the building damaged.

Reeves chalks up the damage to union bullying tactics. Drawing the analogy to schoolyard bullies Reeves asked the Philadelphia Enquirer: "Why do the politicians and the institutions and business community remain silent and reward unions for a long history of bullying?"

Such bully tactics go well beyond the construction site. Unions have long employed bully tactics in the realm of politics and public policy. Several weeks ago, when the Michigan legislature was in the process of passing Right to Work legislation, union thugs attacked an Americans for Prosperity tent set up on the capitol grounds, bringing the structure down upon the children and elderly inside. They then attempted to torch a propane tank, fortunately failing and averting what could have been a major disaster.

Here in Pennsylvania legislators promoting the freedom to work have been shouted down on the Capitol steps by union thugs unable to win the argument with words. Many lawmakers recoil from any legislation that is opposed by labor unions fearing aggressive tactics will be used against them at election time. Despite the fact that union membership in the private sector has fallen to the mid-teens, state legislators still tremble at the mere thought of enacting the type of free market reforms that have put states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana on the road to economic prosperity. And when it comes to campaign contributions, labor unions have bought the allegiance, or at least the acquiescence of enough members of both political parties to prevent reform legislation from even coming to the floor for a vote.

But the wave of free market reforms sweeping the county will not be stopped and will even someday make its way to Penn’s Woods. As unions continue to lose politically look for the bullying, the thuggery, and the intimidation tactics to increase. From sabotaging construction sites to physically attacking those who support opposing policy positions, to using union money to cower elected officials who don’t bend to their will, union bullying is more likely to increase than to diminish in the months and years ahead.

And just like in the school yard, it is time for society to stand up to the bullies and let them know we aren’t going to take it anymore.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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