“That’s a nice business you got there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”
That’s the voice of extortion rackets seeking protection money, whether on behalf of organized crime families or organized labor. One Ohio businessman heard that voice loud and clear recently from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 38.
Here’s what happened: An email from the account of IBEW’s Ron Ols was sent to an Ohio businessman whose union-free workforce is working on a project in Toledo.
“We are aware that you chose a different path in the Toledo area,” read the message, which expresses displeasure at the business’s unwillingness to acquiesce to union demands, “and this has possibly led to some problems for your company.”
The email continues: “To be 100% clear, should you opt for the same business practices in the greater Cleveland area as you chose to use in the Toledo area, your problems will multiply exponentially.”
Only the hopelessly naive or willfully ignorant could read such a statement in ways other than the obvious. It is also hard to ignore that this is the latest evidence that the business model from “On the Waterfront” is alive in the landlocked Rust Belt and beyond.
According to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, during one the tensest moments of this year’s Wisconsin public-sector labor fight, AFSCME Council 24 told local businesses that they had to put a sign in their windows showing their public support for the union’s position, and that “failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.”
Think that’s explicit? A Texas businessman is suing a local branch of the powerful Service Employees International Union for allegedly threatening to “kill” his business for refusing to hand over his employees to union bosses without a secret-ballot vote.
These threats pose several problems for small businesses. The first, of course, is having to live under coercion and potential violence, which has a decidedly negative impact on the ability of entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and hire more workers.
But any small businessperson who reads the newspaper also knows that Big Labor put President Obama into the White House and many top Democrats into positions of power. In turn, organized labor gets to run amok within the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and in statehouses and bureaucracies across the nation. This means the full force of the government can come down on you if you dare to speak up.
Business owners frequently talk about the role uncertainty plays in their decisions to hire additional employees and invest more money in capital and equipment. But it’s also true that if employers are certain they will be attacked by Big Labor and their friends in government, there’s no reason to consider hiring or expanding at all.
It’s important for voters to begin making the link between these thuggish tactics and an all-powerful government which strangles economic growth.
Brett McMahon is spokesman for the Free Enterprise Alliance’s Halt The Assault campaign.