Hell hath no fury like a union scorned. Earlier this year, Philadelphia-area Ironworkers Union members (including several officials) were brought up on federal charges for allegedly burning down a Quaker meetinghouse being built with nonunion labor.
And now, the stars and staff of television cooking competition “Top Chef” have taken some fairly horrific abuse from Boston-area Teamsters. Their offense? Not hiring union labor at union prices, of course. (The Teamsters appear to have learned something from their former, less-than-reputable associates.)
The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you [f***ing] whore!”
Simply charming. It gets worse — Teamster-aligned demonstrators also allegedly berated show staff with anti-gay and racial slurs (including, allegedly, the n-word). Just to top off this incredibly hostile cake, fourteen show staff found their tires slashed. Even the cops weren’t exempt from union abuse: The local police chief said the first officer on the scene had to call for backup as demonstrators were “hostile, swearing, and refusing to let people come in and out.”
Unions have made a big P.R. push to slough off their well-deserved reputation for thuggery—remember the North Carolina AFL-CIO’s “Hug a Thug” event alongside the Democratic National Convention? It hasn’t actually helped to root out the intimidation and violence on display in Boston and Philly. That will require a change in the law—currently, unions are exempted from federal criminal prohibitions on certain violent acts and threats of violence.
Over 90 percent of Americans (including 90 percent of union households) support fixing this loophole, as the Employee Rights Act would. We can’t force unions to observe the general decency expected of anyone else in public life, but the ERA would serve the salutary purpose of closing this hideous and obscene loophole that lets labor off the hook for criminality that would land anyone else in the federal pen.