Criminal Labor Law

58 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2015 Last revised: 7 Apr 2016

See all articles by Benjamin Levin

Benjamin Levin

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: December 28, 2015


This Article examines a recent rise in suits brought against unions under criminal statutes. By looking at the long history of criminal regulation of labor, the Article argues that these suits represent an attack on the theoretical underpinnings of post-New Deal U.S. labor law and an attempt to revive a nineteenth century conception of unions as extortionate criminal conspiracies. The Article further argues that this criminal turn is reflective of a broader contemporary preference for finding criminal solutions to social and economic problems. In a moment of political gridlock, parties seeking regulation increasingly do so via criminal statute. In this respect, “criminal labor law” should pose concerns, not only for scholars concerned about workplace democracy, but also those focused on overcriminalization and the increasing scope of criminal law.

Keywords: criminal law, labor law, RICO, Taft Hartley, unions, union organizing, overcriminalization, conspiracy law, labor conspiracies, labor history

JEL Classification: J51, J52, J53, J58, K13, K14, K31, N31, N32

Suggested Citation

Levin, Benjamin, Criminal Labor Law (December 28, 2015). Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2016, Forthcoming, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 15-19, Available at SSRN:

Benjamin Levin (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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