Pennsylvania’s union stalking loophole could soon close

Pennsylvania lawmakers are on the brink of closing a legal loophole that exempts parties to an organized labor dispute from charges of stalking, harassment and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The stalking loophole has existed since the state officially defined the offense in its criminal code in 2002. As of 2012, Pennsylvania was just one of four states with the carve-out.

That would change if House Bill 874, which eliminates the loophole, becomes law. The Keystone Chapter of the Associated Building Contractors is eager to see it happen after unions subjected some members to “creepy, creepy stuff” during labor disputes, said Brent Sailhamer, director of government affairs for ABC.

“It’s just a no-brainer from a policy standpoint,” he said.

Unions don’t see the issue the same way. The exemption, some labor officials say, protect workers conducting legal organizing activities and ensures their free-speech rights. They say laws already on the books come into play when people act inappropriately.

Rick Bloomingdale, president of the AFL-CIO of Pennsylvania, said the bill is a solution in search of a problem.

“It’s hard to gauge if folks will use it or not” if it becomes law, he said. “We’re afraid that you’re going to see a lot of employers trying to use it to harass people on the picket line or folks that are organizing or doing any kind of activity.”

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