Union violence is violence committed by unions or union members during labor disputes. When union violence has occurred, it has frequently been in the context of industrial unrest. Violence has ranged from isolated acts by individuals to wider campaigns of organised violence aimed at furthering union goals within an industrial dispute.
Anti-union violence has also occurred frequently in the context of industrial unrest, and has often involved the collusion of management and government authorities, private agencies, or citizens' groups in organising violence against unions and their members.
Protest and verbal abuse are routinely aimed against union members or replacement workers who cross picket lines ("blacklegs") during industrial disputes. The inherent aim of a union is to create a labor monopoly so as to balance the monopsony a large employer enjoys as a purchaser of labor. Strikebreakers threaten that goal and undermine the union's bargaining position, and occasionally this erupts into violent confrontation, with violence committed either by, or against, strikers. Some who have sought to explain such violence observe, if labor disputes are accompanied by violence, it may be because labor has no legal redress. In 1894, some workers declared:
..."the right of employers to manage their own business to suit themselves," is fast coming to mean in effect nothing less than a right to manage the country to suit themselves.
Occasionally, violent disputes occur between unions, when one union breaks another's strike. In 2004, the murder of Keith Frogson in the village of Annesley Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire in England may have been the result of a feud dating from the coal-miner's strike in the 1980s, when Mr Frogson and his alleged killer were members of two opposed unions, the established and militant National Union of Mineworkers and the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers.
Research on union violence
Researchers in industrial relations, criminology, and wider cultural studies have examined violence by workers or trade unions in the context of industrial disputes. US and Australian government reports have examined violence during industrial disputes.
- 1996 - On 19 August 1996, Australian unionists physically broke into the Australian Parliament & fought Australian Federal Police during the 1996 Parliament House Riot.
- 1926 - In the context of the 1926 United Kingdom general strike, striking miners derailed The Flying Scotsman on May 10.
- 1984 - Taxi driver David Wilkie was killed by striking miners while driving a non-striking worker during the NUM UK mining strike of 1984-85.
- 1986 - During protests by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547 against a non-unionized workforce getting a contract, picketers threatened and assaulted workers, spat at them, sabotaged equipment, and shot guns near workers. In 1999, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the union had engaged in "ongoing acts of intimidation, violence, destruction of property", awarding the plaintiff $212,500 in punitive damages.
- 1986/1987 - three union workers set fire to the Hotel Dupont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while other union members staged a fight as a distraction. The union, said to be affiliated with the Teamsters, was having a labor dispute with management over pay and health care. Ninety-seven people were killed, none of whom were union members. Most bodies were burned beyond recognition.
- 1990 - on the first day of The New York Daily News strike, delivery trucks were attacked with stones and sticks, and in some cases burned, with the drivers beaten. Strikers then started threatening newsstands with arson, or stole all copies of the Daily News and burned them in front of the newsstands. James Hoge, publisher of the Daily News, alleged that there had been some 700 serious acts of violence. The New York Police Department claimed knowledge of 229 incidents of violence. Criminal charges under the Hobbs Act were declined, however, citing the aforementioned Enmons case.
- 1993 - Eddie York was murdered for crossing a United Mine Workers (UMW) picket line at a coal mine in Logan County, West Virginia, on July 22, 1993. Like the 1990 NY Daily News strike, criminal charges under the Hobbs Act were declined, with the FBI and Justice Department citing the Enmons case.
- 1997 - On August 7, 1997, teamsters Orestes Espinosa, Angel Mielgo, Werner Haechler, Benigno Rojas, and Adrian Paez beat, kicked, and stabbed a UPS worker (Rod Carter) who refused to strike, after Carter received a threatening phone call from the home of Anthony Cannestro, Sr., president of Teamsters Local 769.
- 2011 - It was reported on September 9, 2011 that members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) frightened security guards, dumped grain, and vandalized property belonging to EGT, LLC, over a labor dispute. No one was hurt, and no one had been arrested at the time the incident was reported. District Judge Ronald Leighton later issued a preliminary injunction against the ILWU citing their reported behavior.
- 2012 - Union workers protesting right-to-work legislation in Lansing, Michigan destroyed a tent run by Americans for Prosperity. People were inside the tent but managed to escape before the collapse. Additionally, hot dog stand operator Clinton Tarver, a popular vendor around the Capital area who was hired to provide catering for AFP, lost his equipment, condiments, coolers, and food in the collapse. According to Tarver (an African American), union workers, who had incorrectly assumed he was supporting AFP, called Tarver an "Uncle Tom nigger". A union worker also punched conservative comedian and Fox News contributor Steven Crowder, resulting in a chipped tooth and a minor cut on the forehead. Another worker threatened to kill Crowder with a gun.
Management violence usually takes the form of bullying of or aggression against union organisers or sympathisers in the workplace. It is rarely if ever delivered by employers or senior managers directly, but by front-line managers (e.g. chargehands or foremen) or by other employees incited by management.
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