United States v. Markle, No. 06-1600-cr (2d Cir. December 14, 2010) (Jacobs, Pooler, Parker, CJJ)
In United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973), the Supreme Court held that extortion liability under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, did not extend to violence in pursuit of “legitimate labor ends” that occurs during a lawful strike that is intended to achieve “legitimate collective-bargaining objectives.”
Defendant Markle was convicted of attempted Hobbs Act extortion after a violent confrontation arising from two unions’ turf war over the right to perform “fine sweep work” – the preparation of a floor surface before installing tile – at a construction site in upstate New York. He argued both in the district court and on appeal that Enmons precluded liability.
The circuit disagreed. The Enmons defense is not available if there is no legitimate labor union objective. Courts have generally limited the defense to the context of strikes or collective bargaining negotiations between unions and employers. It does not apply to “violence committed by one union against another for the purpose of ‘establishing the proper allocation of work between’” two different groups of unionized workers. Violence committed “outside the context of a labor-management dispute, by one union against another, does not have a legitimate collective-bargaining objective under the Hobbs Act.”