Hector Barreto

After years of overreaching on contract negotiations and gouging businesses, union bosses are finally paying the price with both their power and membership diminishing. In the wake of the shifting landscape, some labor organizers are resorting to radical schemes to preserve a sense of relevancy. These tactics, which include stalking and harassment, produce an environment that is hostile to workers and employers.

The most recent example takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where a labor official was disgruntled because a company called Post Brothers used a mix of union and non-union workers to build apartments. The boss, named Edward Sweeney, escalated the situation beyond reasonable comprehension when he allegedly stalked and harassed Post Brothers executive Sarina Rose. In addition to dealing with daily protests at the company, Rose was subjected to union tradesmen “snapp[ing] photos of her children, 8 and 11, at their bus stop in Abington. They trailed her at weekend sporting events. One union leader loudly cursed at her in front of a packed restaurant and mimicked shooting her.”

This is simply beyond the pale. The actions taken against Rose are a gross violation of her rights and threatening, and yet it was all entirely legal. Pennsylvania is one of four states with a legal exemption that provides unions involved in labor disputes with protection from prosecution for stalking, harassment and terroristic threats. Sweeney easily walked away from the charges simply because it was the law of the commonwealth. To make matters worse, the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police argued to keep the law on the books as changing it would be too much of an inconvenience for them.

These legal carve outs certainly harm business representatives, like Rose, but it is also injurious to the broader community and state’s reputation. What business would willingly elect to place its employees in a state where harassment and stalking can occur with impunity? Employers should not have to be concerned about subjecting their employees to the kind of violence that occurred in Philadelphia. Sadly, this instance is not an anomaly or one-time aberration in union activity, but something of a trend in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania’s laws have fostered an environment where threatening conduct is the norm, so much so that there has been a propensity for incidents similar to the one previously described. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has documented various incidents, including ten members of Ironworkers Local 401 who committed deplorable acts in their attempts to strong-arm employers and contractors. According to the FBI, members of the ironworkers union “threatened or assaulted contractors or their employees and damaged construction equipment and job sites as part of a concerted effort to force contractors to hire and pay Local 401 workers, even when those workers performed no function.”

Allegedly, the members of this union set fire to a Quaker Meeting House after a contractor refused to hire union ironworkers. The group playfully called themselves, “The Helpful Union Guys” or THUGs. According to the indictment, the group allegedly assaulted non-union workers with baseball bats and set fire to construction sites, cutting steel beams and bolts. These types of actions are reminiscent and worthy of those of another thug, Vladimir Putin, but should never be condoned in America, the land of the free.

Business owners need to know that their workers will be safe from criminal violence; otherwise, it will create uncertainty, and impact local and state economies. How can America truly say its doors are open for business if it creates an environment that legitimizes harassment and bullying? It is a fact that our economy is still recovering from the Great Recession and we need to put our best foot forward, not hurt employers by allowing union bosses to force them to make decisions under duress.

Organized labor must seriously reconsider its strategy as it is both harmful to its image and our country’s business reputation. States must place restrictions on unions disallowing them from tormenting individuals. It is of the utmost importance that we establish a business climate in Pennsylvania and states across the country that is conducive to growth, not one that allows THUGs to run rampant through the streets without any regard for citizens who deserve equal protection under the law.


Hector Barreto

Hector V. Barreto is a nationally recognized businessman and community leader. He served five years as the Administrator of the U. S. Small Business Administration after being appointed by President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the United States Senate on July 25, 2001