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Gov. Wolf closes labor dispute loophole

GREG GROSS
YorkDispatch

Employers and union members will have to play nice when involved in a labor dispute. If not, the long arm of the law can now catch up with them.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a Republican-crafted bill that prohibits harassment, stalking or threatening the use of weapons of mass destruction by anyone involved in a labor dispute.

"I was actually betting the governor would veto it," said Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, noting the governor received campaign funding from unions during the election. "I'm very happy and appreciative the governor recognized it's a good bill."

Act 59 of 2014, formerly House Bill 874, was introduced by Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, and was co-sponsored by numerous House Republicans from York County.

"I believe it is important to allow men and women to come together and have their voices heard," Wolf said in a statement. "I also believe that any form of harassment by employees or employers is unacceptable."

The bill: A 1993 law prevented people involved in labor disputes from being charged with stalking, harassment and threatening to use weapons of mass destruction, said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

That led to incidents where, for example, employees would stalk and harass their employers, and vice-versa, Grove and Phillips-Hill said.

"It was hard to believe" it was allowed, Phillips-Hill said. "It's (the new law is) going to make sure everyone is abiding by the law."

A union's ability to picket is not affected by the law, she noted.

Threatening the use of weapons of mass destruction includes threatening to use a bomb or a biological, chemical or nuclear agent, according to the state's criminal code.

Previous efforts: Ron Miller, a former state representative, introduced a similar bill last session, but it failed to make it to then-Gov. Tom Corbett's office. Grove said it was changed in the Senate and died in the House.

Miller's successor, Phillips-Hill, carried the torch and was a co-sponsor of the bill Wolf signed.

"I'm hopeful the governor will sign some more reform measures into law," she said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.