In an earlier post, I explained how a September 2011 decision in a matter U.S. v. Larson paved the way for the indictment of ten members of Ironworkers Local 401. That post explained that because of a controversial Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Enmons unions enjoyed almost unfettered protection from RICO claims so long as they claimed their alleged actions were in furtherance of “legitimate union objectives.” However, the Larson Court rejected the preposterous argument that otherwise illegal activity was permitted if committed by a union and its members in furtherance of bargaining activity. A recent decision in the Local 401 case has extended the holding of the Larson Court, which was limited to the Western District of New York, to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
On July 21, 2014, Judge Michael Baylson issued an opinion denying a motion to dismiss filed by five of the ten ironworkers indicted under criminal RICO laws. The motions sought to dismiss the indictment in part because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Enmons. Like in Larson, Judge Baylson rejected the contention that Enmons afforded unions broad protection from prosecution so long as some union objective was shown. Judge Baylson held there was nothing legitimate about the ironworkers’ use of violence and arson in attempting to obtain unwanted work stating:
“These allegations support a finding that Defendants used threats and violence to exact unwanted or fictitious work. This is not a valid union objective, and is not protected under Emmons (sic)”
Judge Baylson’s opinion coupled with the Larson Court’s earlier opinion is very important. These cases clearly indicate that federal court’s will not afford unions broad protection from prosecution under Enmons and that unions can no longer hide behind Enmons when engaging in otherwise unlawful activity. Interestingly, the Philadelphia Business Journal featured a story earlier this week about how U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger has made cases like the ironworkers case a priority. We will see if the recent decision in the ironworkers case emboldens him to bring more cases against unions for activity similar to the ironworkers.