- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Media coverage of labor strikes typically portray them as contests between two parties organized labor and the company that has refused to accede to the unions demands. Often the coverage tilts in favor of organized labor, which journalists regard as the "underdog" in any strike. As the case of a Florida man shows, however, this depiction of strikes overlooks another, uglier contest pitting union members against … fellow workers.

A court settlement reached last week shows that even unions know that their tactics do not stand up to scrutiny. A quick flashback: In the summer of 1997 the International Brotherhood of Teamsters went out on strike nationally against United Parcel Service. Many, but not all, workers walked off the job. Rod Carter, a former linebacker for the Miami Hurricanes, did not. The decision was not a difficult one for him: He had a family to support. "They have the right to strike, and I have the right to work," Mr. Carter said in a television interview at the time. "Crossing the picket lines was an easy choice for me. My family is more important than a union or UPS."

Unfortunately for Mr. Carter, the Teamsters local in Miami interpreted his "right to work" more narrowly than he did. The day after his TV interview, his wife began receiving threatening phone calls, calls later traced to the residence of the head of the Teamsters local. The day after that, six union members who had been following Mr. Carter on his rounds of deliveries pulled him from his truck and savagely assaulted him. Among other things, they stabbed him six times with an ice pick. Mr. Carter was out of work for two months recovering from his wounds. Local authorities later charged and convicted the six on criminal counts ranging from aggravated assault to attempted murder to being accessories after the fact.

The case didn´t end there. On behalf of Mr. Carter, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a civil case against the Teamsters local accusing its leadership of encouraging members to harass and threaten employees who worked during the strike. The group obtained sworn statements from union members showing that union leaders authorized plans to have union members follow non-striking workers on their routes to harass and intimidate them. Moreover, union officials also told members the union would provide bail bonds and legal representation if they were arrested. Faced with such evidence, the union decided last week to settle the case rather than to fight it out in court. Terms of the settlement will not be made public, but a spokesman for the foundation said Mr. Carter and his family were very happy with it.

Organized labor is essentially a cartel that seeks to limit the supply of labor to employers, the better to leverage its demands on them. Every Rod Carter out there is therefore a threat to the cartel. Under such conditions, a man´s right to work, to support his family or anything else, becomes tenuous at best. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation deserves credit for protecting the rights of Mr. Carter and those like him.

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