Opinion

Hug-a-thug photo op won't erase labor's legacy of violence

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Having converged last week on the least unionized state in the country, big labor bosses and their activists showed some unconventional affection to everyday folks in the hopes they might erase their stereotype as frequent workplace tormentors.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, withheld its cash from convention organizers this year and instead hung an independent shingle in Charlotte, a booth wherein locals and conventiongoers could "hug a union thug."

The embracing-as-debunking strategy drew predictable chuckles from assembled press, but the cheeky effort willfully belies the systemic bullying of workers by union bosses.

Less than 3 percent of North Carolina's workforce is unionized, so for many, the tales of labor bosses seem like a foreign, even feigned, concept singularly fomented by political opponents. For those, ignorance is bliss.

For workers outside of right-to-work states, workplace intimation and violence isn't a cheap anecdote hyped by rival partisans. In reality, it's a daily reality of confiscatory and compulsory union dues, often spent on a radical political agenda that in no way resembles their own.

Richard Trumka, the president of the very same labor group with the whimsical hug-a-thug booth outside the Democratic National Convention, famously told Illinois members of the United Mine Workers union in 1993, to "kick the s--t out of every last" worker that crossed a picket line during a standoff with management.

Trumka's militant enforcers vandalized homes and terrorized dissenters, nonunionized and unionized alike. And in one plot, later linked to one of his then-lieutenants, a nonunion contractor was murdered, shot in the back of the head, during the same dispute.

This thuglike behavior isn't unique to Trumka or even the AFL-CIO. Violence is a legacy to which contemporary bosses pay homage daily.

Recently, 500 rowdy demonstrators with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, descended en masse on the home of a Bank of America executive last year. The actual target of the protest was not home. As the protesters' bullhorns screeched from the front porch and others still hurled invective from the driveway, a teenage boy inside the home barricaded himself in a bathroom and frantically dialed for help. The horde that descended on quiet suburbia never apologized for the mass invasion.

A 64-year-old woman in Boston was treated to much of the same when striking telecommunications union members protested outside her home, where Verizon technicians were simply repairing a frizzing phone line. Other Verizon landline workers in New York who ignored the 2011 strike were even fired at by BB guns as they went to work.

And in New York in 2008, while Trumka was marshaling an unparalleled union political operation to boost then-Sen. Obama in the polls, a host of leaders from the local International Union of Operating Engineers were indicted on multiple counts of intimation, vandalism and harassment of nonunion contractors.

These stories, sadly, are not unique or even unusual.

Union bosses can glad-hand all they like -- though patrons of the hug-a-thug booth would be well-advised to keep a firm grip on their wallets if Trumka is included in the lineup. But no manufactured photo opportunity can erase big labor's shamefully corrupt practices.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute, or WFI.

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