Los Angeles, Calif. (September 26, 2002) — On the eve of Congressional hearings into the national epidemic of union violence, the Los Angeles County Superior Court rejected an attempt by union lawyers to block a worker’s civil suit that was filed after a vicious union beating following a 2001 strike at Hollander Home Fashions.
Issuing its ruling from the bench on Wednesday, the court rejected an attempt by lawyers for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) to dismiss Matthew Kahn’s suit. This will allow the victim’s claims of civil conspiracy, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress to proceed without delay. The court also declined to limit Kahn’s ability to collect civil damages resulting from the union assault and will allow full discovery into the union’s role in the beating.
“This ruling is a small first step toward forcing UNITE to account for its role in this cowardly assault on an innocent man,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, because of the numerous special exemptions for union violence enshrined in federal and state criminal and civil laws, Matthew Kahn still faces an uphill battle.”
With the help of attorneys provided by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Kahn, an employee of Labor Ready, filed suit against UNITE for damages incurred in May 2001 resulting from an apparently premeditated attack by UNITE Organizing Director Ramiro Hernandez and several other union militants that left Kahn with several head lacerations and other injuries. According to the complaint, the union bailed Hernandez out of jail after the assault and continued to employ him. Later investigation showed that Hernandez possesses an extensive arrest record for union-related misconduct.
In United States v. Enmons (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court held that strike-related violence cannot be prosecuted under the Hobbs Act, which criminalizes the obstruction of interstate commerce through violence, threat, or coercion. Numerous other states have enacted similar special exemptions for enforcement of criminal laws during strikes. As a result, thousands of acts of violence (usually directed against non-striking workers) have gone unpunished. In 1999, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill limiting civil liability for unions and union officers that commit acts of violence.
Unfortunately, the vicious union beating of Matthew Kahn is not an isolated incident. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research has recorded almost 10,000 media-reported incidents of union violence since 1975. Experts on labor- and strike-related violence estimate that unreported acts of harassment, vandalism, and violence could swell that figure to 100,000 or more.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.