In 1994, a non-union truck driver named Glen Dale Yeatts was nearly beaten to death when he entered the yard of a California trucking company embroiled in a labor dispute. Legal expenses for those charged with the beating were paid by union members.
In 1985, a sniper killed a man hauling coal for a non-union company. Efforts to close a loophole in federal law holding union officials responsible for violence or threats of violence were opposed by Big Labor.
Union thuggery has a long and ignoble history in this country. It happened in Michigan this month in the battle over right to work and in Wisconsin earlier in the battle over collective bargaining. The “Occupy” movement was rife with organized acts of anarchy. But these are given scant attention. This would not be the case had the violence and anarchy erupted at tea party rallies in recent years.
Contemporary instances of union violence are relatively mild compared to the past, when outbreaks included the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, the assassination of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg in 1905, the 1993 murder of a non-union Peabody Coal Co. worker in West Virginia and the 2009 attack of a tea party sympathizer by members of a public employees union.
Union apologists will note that the history of labor strife is rife with violence inflicted on striking union members rather than by those members. This is true. Such violence led to laws increasing worker rights to organize.
As unions grew in strength, a tide turned and the balance was tipped toward labor. Efforts to restore some balance — such as right-to-work legislation — are being met with fierce resistance. When that resistance includes thuggery, labor has gone too far.
Public officials, starting with President Barack Obama, need to unequivocally state that union violence in any form is an unacceptable means of pursuing or opposing political change.