Last week, the heads of a labor union in Indiana announced their endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate and watched two of their own leaders stand before a federal criminal court judge after pleading guilty.
On Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers endorsed Joe Biden for president. The announcement statement said, “the endorsement was based on key issues that matter to the union members and reflects their values”
“Vice President Biden has proven again and again that he is a friend to union ironworkers,” said the Iron Workers General President Eric Dean. “We need a president who will defend rights and jobs of American workers, and Joe Biden will be that president.”
However, on Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice made an announcement of its own: Two officials from the local Iron Workers union pleaded guilty that day for their role in a “brutal assault on a group of non-union ironworkers in Dyer, Indiana.”
The attack left a number of workers with serious injuries.
According to a Justice Department report sent to the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the union officials admitted the attack was part of their efforts to obtain a lucrative contract for the union to assist with the construction of the Plum Creek Christian Academy, a school affiliated with the Dyer Baptist Church in Indiana.
“It’s almost ironic that a Democratic Party-supporting labor organization is choosing a politician like Biden who appears to have been involved in questionable activity while serving as vice president in the Obama White House,” said former corporate security director Anthony Lindenberg.
“[However], I do feel encouraged that after years of abusive behavior within the labor movement the government under President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr is now prosecuting what’s been part of the corrupt union-Democratic Party relationship,” said Lindenberg, a former police officer.
Convictions for Extortion Conspiracy
Both union leaders, 68-year-old Thomas Williamson, Sr. and 56-year-old Jeffrey Veach, pleaded guilty to one count of extortion conspiracy before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Martin of the Northern District of Indiana.
Veach is the current president of Local 395 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, based in Portage, Indiana. Prior to his recent retirement, Williamson was a business agent for Local 395.
“Under federal law, following their guilty pleas, Veach will forfeit his position as president and both men will be barred from holding any union position for at least 13 years following the end of any prison sentences they may serve,” according to Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office.
“Pursuant to their plea agreements, Williamson and Veach admitted that on Jan. 7, 2016, they conspired to use actual and threatened violence to obtain contracts for Local 395 – a business contract from general contractor Lagestee-Mulder of Illinois, and/or a labor contract from D5 Iron Works (D5), also of Illinois. Prior to Jan. 7, 2016, the two defendants had learned that D5 was performing structural ironwork for the Dyer Baptist Church, which was located in Local 395’s ‘territory.’ They also knew that D5 was not signed up to a labor contract with Local 395,” stated U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II of the Northern District of Indiana.
On the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2016, Williamson visited the church jobsite to talk to the foreman of the D5 crew and convince him to “sign up” with Local 395, or to stop work on the site. After being told to leave the site, Williamson went across the street to the church.
Once inside, he confronted a youth pastor for the church and told him that it was “unethical” to use non-union labor for the construction site. Williamson offered to get “his guys” on the jobsite instead. The next morning, Williamson returned to the jobsite, this time accompanied by co-defendant Veach. The D5 foreman again refused to join the union and asked the two defendants to leave the site. Williamson became angry and grabbed the foreman’s jacket, calling him, among other things, a “scab bastard.” As they left the site, Williamson remarked to Veach that the two of them were going to have to “take things back to old school.”
The two defendants then gathered about 10 rank-and-file members of Local 395 to return to the jobsite that afternoon. Once at the jobsite, the union members immediately attacked the D5 workers and beat them with fists and loose pieces of hardwood, kicking them while they were on the ground. As a result of the attack, one D5 worker sustained a broken jaw that required several surgeries and extended hospitalization.