Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a bill to amend the Hobbs Act to make any violence committed as a part of labor union organizing a federal crime.
The Hobbs Act covers extortion by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear — including payoffs to officials or payments to unions from employees that violate labor contracts.
Current law imposes criminal penalties for acts of robbery or extortion affecting interstate commerce, Vitter noted, but a loophole makes an exception for union violence.
“Over the last four decades, union officials have gotten away with thousands of acts of violence and extortion – all because of a legal loophole. And all too often, the targets of this violence – hardworking men and women – are the very people unions claim to represent,” Vitter said. “We need to stand up for the workers who would rather work than follow the orders of their union leaders.”
Vitter’s co-sponsors are Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas).
The bill would impose the maximum fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 20 years for anyone who commits crimes such as robbery, extortion, or an act of physical violence to any person or property during a labor dispute.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) introduced a similar measure in the House a year ago. It has been sitting in a House subcommittee with 16 GOP co-sponsors.
That bill would authorize imposition of a fine of up to $100,000, 20 years’ imprisonment, or both for obstructing, delaying, or affecting commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce by robbery or extortion or threatening physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to interfere with commerce by threats or violence.