Through television, many Americans have learned about the criminal justice system. It has been reported that more people learned about their Miranda Rights from the show, “Law and Order” than from any other source. Other areas of law have received less attention. Areas such as intellectual property law, employment law, and environmental law do not get the same treatment. Many people have heard the term “labor racketeering” but do not really understand what it is.
The National Criminal Justice Reference System has released a report on this very topic. They published “Labor Racketeering: The Mafia and the Unions.”
When union resources are used inappropriately and for personal gain, it is called “labor corruption.” When the use of labor funds, authority or other resources are used by criminal enterprises, that is when it is called “labor racketeering.” This can take a variety of forms. When workers threaten to strike unlawfully or engage in other activities such as workplace sabotage, work stoppages, and picketing. When these actions are not done to improve the environment for the workers but to enrich a criminal organization, that is labor racketeering.
In the United States, labor racketeering has been an issue that has caused problems since the early 1900s. Despite this, it was not until late in the 1970s that any real enforcement of the laws pertaining to labor unions started to be enforced. Up until that point, there was no political interest in dealing with the issue.
In some ways, the problem of labor racketeering is a gateway crime. It often can lead to embezzlement, extortion, fraud, hijacking, fraud, and the infringement of the rights of the average labor union worker.
Law enforcement officers also approach the problem from the position of the organizations and people who are committing the crimes. This is often worked on as a white collar criminal offense.
When experts look at the problems of organized crime, they often make at least a note of the powerful and dangerous Cosa Nostra crime family and the influence it sought to exert over labor unions in the 1920s and in the 1930s. Labor unions looked to the Costa Nosta to help them with protection as they were seen as a counterweight to socialistic and communistic forces in the country.
In 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted. It has been the single most powerful tool the federal government has in its arsenal to fight organized crime in the United States. It has been used by federal law enforcement agencies to fight the Cosa Nostra through its ties to labor unions. Research is continuing to show how RICO has been used to help unions recover and rebuild their structure and policies.
Through movies such asandnbsp;The Godfatherandnbsp;andGoodfellasand television shows such asThe Sopranos, it can be easy for many people to have a romanticizedandnbsp;view of the mafia and organized crime. It is also easy to discount and labor racketeering as the real problem that it is. Crime families are not noble with a set of moral guidelines by which they conduct their business and live their lives. These are criminals who engage in very real and very dangerous activities that threaten people all around them.
By the same token, labor racketeering has victims. The men and women who rely on their unions for protection and to enforce their contracts can be victims of labor racketeering. So can their employers and then, by extension, the consumers of the products they produce are also victims here.