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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pennsylvania legislators eye ending union exception to stalker laws -- By Sean Higgins, The Washington Examiner


In this Oct. 11, 2012 photo, an ironworker traverses a beam on a new courthouse under construction in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Legislation that would end an unusual loophole in Pennsylvania's anti-stalking laws that exempts union-related activity is slowing making its way through the Republican-led statehouse. It has a good chance of getting enacted, aides say.

The Keystone State defines stalking as "following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person." Repeated, unwanted communications count as stalking, too.

But the law also states: "This section shall not apply to conduct by a party to a labor dispute."
State Rep. Ron Miller, R-York, says it is time to scrap the exception. His bill to amend the stalking exception passed out of committee in the statehouse's lower chamber on March 13 and is awaiting action in the upper chamber. “We are now a step closer to removing a carve-out that should never have existed,” Miller said.

Gregg Warner, attorney for the State Senate's judiciary committee, told the Washington Examiner "there is interest" among Senate leaders in the legislation, but no schedule to take it up yet.
The Keystone State is one of four that have carved out exceptions for labor organizers and activists. Illinois, Nevada and California are the others.

The original idea behind the exemptions was to prevent the anti-stalking laws, which are primarily intended to protect victims of abusive relationships, from being used to shut down traditional union activities. Many, like picketing, would fall under free speech protections.

The broad nature of the exceptions though has created its own problems, though.

In November, a Philadelphia judge threw out charges of stalking, harassment and even terroristic threats by members of Ironworkers Local 401. The union was allegedly trying to intimidate businesswoman Sarina Rose for using nonunion labor. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the union created "siege-like conditions" by following Rose, verbally assaulting her, photographing her children without consent and miming shooting her.

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