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A ridiculous state law

Published September 19. 2013 05:00PM

Pennsylvania's book is chock full of ridiculous laws.

Look no further than how we regulate liquor or, even better, fireworks.

Did you know it's OK to sell fireworks in Pennsylvania, but it's illegal to sell them to the fine residents of this commonwealth?

Go figure.

State Rep. Ron Miller recently brought another absurd law to our attention.

We all know stalking, harassment and, oh, let's say, threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction are bad (i.e. illegal).

But Pennsylvania's Crimes Code gives a pass on those three offenses to anyone who's a "party to" a labor dispute.

So if a union member or employer in a heated contract negotiation happens to blurt out his/her intention to bomb the other party's headquarters, that won't necessarily earn them a court date.

We can only surmise the exemptions in the law were intended to protect the rights of those involved in a labor dispute - for example the rights of a union to picket or an employer to lock the workers out.

However, emotions tend to run high in such cases, which is why we'd expect the law to be more vigilant for any over-the-top behavior, not turn a blind eye when it occurs.

Miller, R-Jacobus, said the exemptions are "hard to believe" and he's sponsoring a bill to end them.

"With weapons of mass destruction it's like, `What?"' he said. "This is a no-brainer. Why do we have a protected class that the law doesn't apply to?"

Although the bill would affect both sides in a labor dispute, organized labor is the one calling foul.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO inducted Miller into its "Hall of Shame, Labor Day Edition" on its website after a House Judiciary Committee on the legislation last month.

Frank Snyder, the organization's secretary-treasurer, posted on the site that the bill would criminalize union members' activities, such as organizing drives and picket lines.

"What (Miller) has failed to identify is a single incident that our current criminal code is unable to address," he wrote. "That is because HB 1154 is not designed to address any real problem; it is designed only to criminalize peaceful, legal, and protected activities by workers seeking to have a voice on the job."

We disagree.

Unions, like businesses, would retain their rights under labor laws; the bill would simply hold them - like anyone else - accountable when their activities cross the line.

There might be, as Snyder suggests, other ways to address such behavior under the law, but that doesn't make the exemptions right.

In fact, having them on the books might even encourage someone to push the line in an already tense situation.

By The York Dispatch

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