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Union violence: real face of labor



Michigan, heart of the union movement, saw classic union violence as it became a right-to-work State.

Yesterday the union movement showed its true face. Union violence has been a part of the union movement since it began. The public, and even the police, have mostly stood by. They cannot stand by any longer.

Michigan passes right-to-work laws

Yesterday, Michigan became the twenty-fourth State to enact right-to-work laws. A right-to-work law simply says no one can force another to join a labor union to work. No one can run a “closed shop” in Michigan anymore. (Nor will the new law let a union run an agency shop, where every employee must pay dues whether he belongs to the union or not.) Reuters reports that many investors might re-invest in Michigan now that these laws are in force.

Michigan’s legislature passed two right-to-work laws yesterday, one each for public-sector and private-sector workers. They did this after a referendum to put collective bargaining into the Michigan constitution failed miserably. Thus the same voters who “carried” Michigan for Barack Obama, also threw out the unions’ bid for more power.

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) said flatly the unions have none to blame but themselves. Voters chose him in 2010 in the Great Tea Party Wave. For two years he told his fellow Republicans not to “push” for a right-to-work law in their State. He did not think they could win that fight. But he warned the union leaders not to press for the referendum.

It’ll be about collective bargaining first, but it’ll create a big stir about right-to-work [also].


The referendum went onto the ballot. Voters turned it down. So those who wanted a right-to-work law felt bold. Bold enough to act within one day, too swiftly for Democrats to stop them. In that one day last week, the Michigan Senate passed both measures.

Union violence, the votes, and the media

Michigan, heart of the union movement, saw classic union violence as it became a right-to-work State.

State Flag of Michigan

Yesterday the two bills came to the Michigan House for votes. And the unions answered that as they have answered all their political and other opponents for a hundred years: with violence.

The first hint of union violence came at 7:15 a.m. Union supporters gathered near the State Capitol. They threatened to shut down the Michigan House if they could, to stop the vote. (They failed.) A small Tea Party group started a counter-protest. And several union supporters shouted them down and told them to get off the steps.

Later in the morning, the House passed the first measure (for public-sector workers). Then the union violence broke out in earnest. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity had set up a tent on the lawn, to show support for the new laws. Several union loyalists attacked this tent. They collapsed it with everyone inside, including men, women, and children. They then started to trample on the tent, as if they didn’t care who might be underneath it.

Journalist Steve Crowder and his camera crew from Fox News Channel watched this happen. They wanted to ask the union loyalists a simple question: what’s wrong with a right-to-work law? Then when the loyalists attacked the tent, Crowder pulled one man off it, saying, “You’re hurting people in there.”

The man, whom Crowder identified later as “Tony,” screamed at Crowder not to touch him, and “laid the F Bomb” on him several times. Then, according to Crowder’s account, “Tony” landed four blows on him. Crowder grabbed at Tony to stop his flailing fists. (“Tony” obviously does not know how to box, or else Crowder would be in the hospital, if not the morgue.) Crowder said, “I’m going to let you go; don’t hit me again.” And he turned away. And “Tony” swung his fist again and hit him from behind. That seems to be when another loyalist finally stepped between the two and told “Tony” to calm down.


Tony wouldn’t calm. He didn’t try to hit Crowder again. But he threatened to shoot him. Crowder’s camera crew filmed this and caught every word he said. And the police? Nowhere to be seen.

Michelle Malkin gives more details this morning. She also lists twelve other episodes of union violence over the past year and a half.

In contrast, the Associated Press said nothing about the outbreak of union violence. They described the “passion” of the crowd. They said the crowd was smaller than similar crowds that greeted Indiana’s new right-to-work law. They mentioned that the Capitol police arrested two people who tried to crash the House chamber during the votes. But about the attack on the AFP tent, and “Tony” the flailing boxer? Not. One. Word.

Legislator endorses union violence

Even that might not be the worst moment. That came in the House chamber itself. Representative Douglas Giese (D-Taylor, MI) threatened his opponents with union violence!

We are going to undo 100 years of labor relations. And there will be blood. We will relive the Battle of the Overpass.

The Michigan Democratic Party was foolish enough to repeat Mr. Giese’ remarks in a Twitter tweet.


The Battle of the Overpass took place in 1937. Several organizers for the United Auto Workers Union battled Ford Motor Company’s security force. They lost. But the public sympathized with the union when they saw how badly they lost.

Yesterday, Doug Giese threatened to return the favor. Blood he called for. And blood he got.

History of union violence

Violence, on both sides, has marred the trade union movement in America from the beginning. The nation’s first organized urban police forces must take their share of the blame for this. Ordinary citizens expect the police to stop fights and make sure that no one will use violence to settle a political, business, or other dispute. Instead, the police took sides. Sometimes they took the side of management. And sometimes, especially when they organized themselves, they took the side of the unions. Usually this means the police will not investigate cases of assault-and-battery, or even assault-to-murder, when union organizers do the violence. Union violence is part of “legitimate union activity.” The Supreme Court said so in 1973. (US v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973))

The sorry history of union violence, and of police taking sides in it, is the real background for the union violence on Michigan’s Capitol lawn. Generations of labor and other “progressive” activists have grown up with no real respect for the law. The law, to them, is another weapon to fight over, brandish, and wield.

Bob Beckel, former campaign manager for Walter Mondale, became a prize example yesterday. On the show called The Five, he refused to talk about Tony the Flailing Boxer. Instead he talked about members of his own family who, he said, died, or at least suffered injury, in incidents like the Battle of the Overpass. In short, he played the game of tu quoque. (That’s Latin for “You, too!”) A co-host asked him whether he really meant to say that union organizers should “get even.” And he said, “Yes.”


Nothing like that ever happened at a Tea Party rally. Your correspondent saw police at one rally; they relaxed and seemed to take it as light duty, which it was.

Your correspondent also saw union violence at Yale College during the Great Dining Hall Strike of 1977. One union member hit a student who tried to step onto Hewitt Quadrangle. Police charged him with assault-and-battery, the worst charge anyone ever faced. They also charged the student with disorderly conduct, but later dropped that charge. Worse still was the night that a union organizer threw a nearly full glass gallon bottle of gin through the windshield of an oil truck trying to deliver fuel oil to the Pearson-Sage Power Plant. Police did not even try to find and arrest that man. And the students? Many said whoever threw the bottle was within his rights!

But people might now have a new attitude. Crowder told his colleagues that outraged Americans nationwide have offered to help find Tony the Flailing Boxer and bring him to justice. Crowder, this morning, challenged Tony: face charges of assault-and-battery, or face Crowder himself “in a legally sanctioned, mixed martial-arts bout.” ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider
ARVE Error: need id and provider


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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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