Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Wisconsin Union Intimidates Dissidents

Class Election kidsOne of Big Labor’s notorious intimidation tactics is the so-called “scab list”—a public list of employees represented by the union who aren’t participating in some union activity, usually striking or paying nonmember “agency fees” in states where they aren’t mandatory. Last week, we covered one United Auto Workers local (UAW Local 600) which intimidated dissenters by publishing their names and job titles in the union magazine (and vowed to continue doing so until they became union members and started paying dues). Now, another UAW local (Local 833), currently striking Kohler plants in Wisconsin, is getting in on the pressure tactics:

In what may be the first clear evidence of intimidation tactics levied against union workers at the Kohler company, a list of possible targets for intimidation was distributed to United Auto Workers local 833 members on Monday. The members being targeted reportedly crossed the lines and returned to work at the Kohler plant.


The list, obtained by WHBL news, includes 13 encircled names on a flyer that reads, “No longer our union brothers or sisters. A scab is a scab. Don’t be afraid to point them out.”

Labor law allows unions to discipline members (but not non-members that union contracts nonetheless require to submit to union representation) who cross picket lines in accordance with the union constitution (typically by fines and special penalty dues). Local 833’s “point them out” sheet is therefore clearly designed with one purpose in mind: Intimidation.

The National Labor Relations Act is supposed to protect employees’ rights to join or refrain from joining a labor organization, but in practice unions have many means to bring intimidation tactics against employees who want to quit or decertify (get rid of) their unions. That’s why America’s workers need the Employee Rights Act (ERA), a federal labor reform currently before Congress.

ERA would protect employees from certain violence and intimidation tactics that are currently exempt from federal prohibition because of a union loophole in anti-racketeering law and also ensure that unions are held to the same standard for conduct “interfering with, restraining, or coercing” employees decertifying the union as employers are for conduct against employees trying to organize a union. This is fundamental fairness, and UAW Local 833 shows exactly why ERA’s protections are needed.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActUAW