Local 25 Teamsters (Union) were recently acquitted of charges of conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion. In June 2014, the Teamsters allegedly slashed tires, used sexist and racist slurs, and threatened to “bash” celebrity host Padma Lakshmi’s “pretty little face in.”

Federal prosecutors accused the Union members of trying to shut down the filming if the show did not hire Teamsters to drive production vehicles. The prosecutors specifically had to prove that the Teamsters’ labor objectives, however egregious their actions, were illegitimate.

In U.S. v. Enmons, 10 U.S. 396 (1973), the Supreme Court held that union members on strike could not be prosecuted for extortion if they had legitimate labor objectives. The Court reasoned that “objectives” is based on the members’ intent and “illegitimate goals” can include unwanted, unneeded and superfluous work. Using this precedent, the Unions’ lawyers successfully defended the Union and proved that, although the men may have used rough language or engaged in behavior that might have seemed threatening, their actions were legal under federal law.

This acquittal exemplifies unions’ strong protections under federal criminal law despite union members’ violent and threatening behavior. Due to U.S. v. Enmons and the standard to prove “legitimate labor objectives,” federal jurors have little room in their ability to hold union members accountable for their actions.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!

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