Among practitioners of labor violence, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 17, based near Buffalo, N.Y., has to rank as among the most obnoxious. The evidence of crime proved convincing enough for a federal jury last month to convict former local president and business manager Mark Kirsch on various racketeering-related charges. Yet the same jury in the six-week trial also acquitted four other defendants. Prosecutors alleged that all five union members were involved in repeated acts of vandalism of nonunion construction sites and terror against nonunion contractors and workers. The case had sprung open in 2008 with the indictment of a dozen persons, several of whom eventually pled guilty. While union leaders and their lawyers are cheering the outcome, it is unlikely the local can resume its mobster style of enforcement.
Labor unions in this country for nearly four decades have operated with a grant of near-immunity from the consequences of intimidating employers and non-joining workers or destroying their property. An ongoing federal racketeering and extortion case against upstate New York's International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 17 is underscoring how readily union attorneys rationalize their clients' "right" to terrorize. The case has taken on an added significance in light of legislation recently introduced to close this loophole, a product of a misguided Supreme Court ruling. Even more noteworthy, one of the attorneys for the local is a former law partner of Mark Pearce, the latter recently becoming chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It's a small world.
WesternNew YorkState has been the focal point of some of the most virulent union intimidation in the country.Laborers International Union of North America Local 91 (Niagara Falls) and Local 210 (Buffalo) were notorious in their respective heydays, committing numerous crimes against persons and property before being taken down by federal prosecutors.In the case of LIUNA Local 210, authorities tied more than 15 murders to union officials, members and associates.Now another union in the region can be added to this list: Local 17 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.And its days, too, appear numbered.