Since 1975, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research has collected more than 9,000 reports of union violence. These incidents are recorded and electronically maintained in the Institute’s Violent Event Data File.
The Violent Event Data File is a record of violent events that involved labor union members and/or labor union officials. The file is organized into a list of individual records, with each record summarizing a separate violent event. The information about each of these events is found in articles in magazines, newspapers, television news program transcripts and trade association journals.
Violent events that occurred anywhere in the United States since 1975 are put into the file and recorded electronically, so that violent events can be listed by criteria such as the union involved, where and when the violence occurred, and whether the violence involved property damage and/or personal injury. In addition, the Data File can be programmed to print a listing of all violent incidents that occurred in Arizona and involved the Teamsters union. In addition, the original source of each event can easily be found because the number assigned to each record in the data file is also written on the original article. These original sources can then be relocated for confirmation and/or more detailed analysis.
For instance, while the Institute has recorded 8,799 incidents of union violence since 1975, only 1,963 arrests and 258 convictions have been found. It is difficult to believe that local news media who covered the violence resulting from a strike would not follow up on any subsequent legal action. Thus, it appears that of the violent incidents recorded in the Institute’s Data File, barely three percent of those incidents have led to an arrest and conviction.
Many of the news clips here point to one of the reasons: local law enforcement authorities frequently overwhelmed by the number of participants in union violence, who sometimes lash out by blaming the company targeted by union militants for trying to continue its legal operation in the face of illegal violence.
In addition to the powerlessness of local law enforcement, federal authorities are also hamstrung by the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Enmons decision. In the 1973 ruling, the High Court held that union officials may destroy property, assault employees, and even murder them, while escaping prosecution under federal extortion laws, so long as such violence is undertaken to secure what the Supreme Court called “legitimate” objectives, such as wage increases. Meanwhile, an increasing number of states have enacted extortion laws exempting union officials from prosecution for the so-called “legitimate” objectives cited in Enmons.
From some of the strikes chronicled here, it is also clear that the actual extent of the violence perpetrated by union militants far exceeds the small number of incidents reported in the Institute’s Data File. In some of the strikes of which the Institute recorded, police and company reports indicate that the actual number of assaults, threats and property damage is tens of times greater than the news reports collected by the Institute.