Boston, Mass.—A federal appeals court has reversed the convictions of two former Teamsters found guilty of extortion in 2014 for threatening to picket businesses that didn’t hire union workers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Sept. 8 ruled that Joseph “Jojo” Burhoe and John Perry, members of Local 82 in South Boston, had not extorted companies and organizations by saying they’d picket events that used nonunion labor, because they were seeking real jobs for their members. Judge Juan Torruella held that the law defines union extortion as pressuring a company for “fictitious” work. “Not only were the jobs not fictitious, the government failed to prove that the union members did not perform actual work,” he wrote. “If the First Circuit affirmed the jury conviction,” labor lawyer Michael Anderson told the Boston Herald, “the whole labor movement would have to surrender themselves to federal prison.” The ruling, he added, may lead to the dismissal of federal extortion charges against two City Hall aides who are accused of holding up permits for a Boston music festival unless it hired union stagehands.

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