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Criminal Resource Manual

2458. Use Of Arson Or Explosives When A Labor Dispute Is Involved -- 18 U.S.C. 844(i)

At the time that the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 amended Title 18, United States Code, by adding sections 841 et seq., governing the importation, manufacture, distribution and storage of explosive materials and creating certain Federal offenses pertaining to the unlawful use of explosives, Congress expressly disclaimed intent to occupy the field to the exclusion of state law on the same subject matter. See USAM 9-63.902.

In 1982, 18 U.S.C. § 844 was amended to further broaden federal authority by prohibiting the use of fire to achieve certain unlawful objectives already set forth in the statute with respect to explosives. Prior to the amendment, the use of explosives or an explosive device had to be involved for a section 844(i) violation to have occurred. Where arson or explosives are used to destroy property used in interstate or foreign commerce during a labor-management dispute in order to pursue demands for higher wages or other legitimate objectives of collective bargaining, section 844(i) serves as an alternative vehicle to prosecution of Hobbs Act extortion (18 U.S.C. §  1951). See United States v. Thordarson, 646 F.2d 1323 (9th Cir. 1981); United States v. Chambers, 515 F. Supp. 1 (N.D.Ohio 1981). In labor-management disputes where violence is used to pursue otherwise legitimate labor objectives, extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act is precluded by the claim-of-right defense established in United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973).

[cited in USAM 9-139.020]