Stalking, harassment and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction are all legal activities in Pennsylvania. It’s almost impossible to believe, but yes, these abusive acts are permitted when employed during a labor dispute as defined by the Labor Anti-Injunction Act.
Laws that permit abuse, even under limited circumstances, are an affront to justice. Union members or employers involved in a labor dispute should not be free to stalk, harass or threaten with impunity. But that’s exactly what happened in the case of Sarina Rose, who was harassed by Edward Sweeney, a member of Ironworkers Local 401. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the incident last year:
When Rose spotted Sweeney on March 14 at the nearby Jany’s Restaurant, she was not surprised to see him. But as she told Hayden during a nonjury trial in November, the union leader’s actions that day left her unnerved.
As she headed toward the restroom, Sweeney cursed at her, loudly and repeatedly, calling her a scab and worse, she said. When a security guard attempted to intervene, Sweeney backed her against a counter and was soon joined by union colleagues.
“We were stuck in this tight restaurant, and they were yelling and surrounding us,” she recalled Wednesday. “It was definitely a bad situation.”
Rose escaped. But when she left her company’s work site later that morning, she noticed Sweeney in her car mirror. His hand shaped like a gun, he pointed it at her and mouthed, “Bang, bang, bang,” she said.
Despite the harassment suffered at the hands of a union bully, justice wasn’t done for Ms. Rose. Mr. Sweeney’s defense attorney cited the exemption to harassment found in Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code, and the judge dismissed the case, callously commenting that the parties wasted his time, according to the Inquirer story.
An incident like this should never be allowed to occur again, and it won’t if state lawmakers support legislation sponsored by Representative Ron Marsico. The legislation, House Bill 874, which already has 73 co-sponsors, would repeal the exemptions in the crime code for stalking, harassment and threats made during the course of a labor dispute.
A similar bill made headway last year, but it ultimately failed to pass before the legislative session ended. However, with a new legislative session underway and momentum building for Rep. Marsico’s legislation, it’s only a matter of time before the General Assembly puts an end to these flagrant and unacceptable exemptions.