Unions have a right to fight – legally

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Unions have plenty of rights. They have the right to strike, and to picket the employer with whom they are aggrieved. They have a right, as striking Verizon workers did in Massachusetts this past week, to have a giant, inflated rat at their pickets, if they are dumb enough to think that is going to bring them some public support.

They have a right to shout insults and obscenities at those who cross the picket line to go to work, although it has always mystified me why they think acting like elementary school bullies earns them any respect.

But they do not have a right to commit crimes – to sabotage equipment, to threaten those who don’t agree with them, to follow replacement workers to job sites and harass them.

And the leaders of those unions – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America – are far too tepid in their response to the usual thuggery that accompanies strikes by militant unions.

First, they call the accusations a “management tactic,” as if damaged equipment including sliced cables is all imaginary. Then they contend they are not accountable for any of the lawless behavior because they don’t “condone” it or “encourage” it, and instruct their people to comply with the law.

Sure. You can see the all the winking from here. And you can hear it when they say, you know, these people have a right to be “passionate” when their pay and benefits are on the line.

Passion is fine. But it is not an excuse for criminal behavior. If the union honchos took the crimes of their members seriously, they would put the word out that they would withhold any support for and endorse the termination of any member caught breaking the law during the protests. All they would have to do is back up that threat one time, and the sabotage, assaults and criminal threatening would magically disappear.

That doesn’t mean rolling over for management. It simply means having enough respect for yourselves and your opponents to fight honestly and legally. And if they want public support, they aren’t going to get it by making it impossible for people to make emergency calls.

It was disgraceful in times past when company owners would hire goons to break strikes. It is just as disgraceful for the union members to become the goons.