The federal government indicted several union members on Tuesday for burning down a Quaker meetinghouse in 2012. Why? Because it was employing non-union workers, of course.
Ten members of Philadelphia’s Ironworkers Local 401 were charged with “allegedly participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property, and assault in order to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers,” the FBI statement reads. “Eight of the 10 individuals named in the indictment are charged with conspiring to use Ironworkers Local 401 as an enterprise to commit criminal acts. … The indictment details incidents in which the defendants threatened or assaulted contractors or their employees and damaged construction equipment and job sites as part of a concerted effort to force contractors to hire and pay Local 401 workers, even when those workers performed no function. Among the criminal acts set forth in the indictment is the December 2012 arson of a Quaker Meetinghouse under construction in Philadelphia.”
In an effort to distance themselves from allegations of violence, the union used a network of individuals ‘friendly’ to Ironworkers Local 401 that helped identify construction projects and job sites that were not using Local 401 members.
“The indictment alleges that business agents would approach construction foremen at those work sites and imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property or other criminal acts unless union members were hired. The defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years, in order to force contractors to hire union members,” the statement continues.
And they truly were union thugs. One of the ‘goon squads’ the defendants used, which consisted of union members and associates, called themselves THUGs—an acronym for “The Helpful Union Guys”.
Using violence, intimidation, extortion, and other crimes to further union goals will not be tolerated, the FBI said, and they’re hoping this indictment will serve as a warning to other unions.
“The strong-arm tactics we have seen in this case are outrageous and brazen—and an unfortunate blow to the worthy intentions of unionism,” Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko said. “The fight for workers’ rights may sometimes call for tough tactics, but violence, intimidation, arson, and sabotage are crimes which won’t be tolerated. This investigation has been wide-ranging, but it is far from over. Now that this indictment has been unsealed, we expect to hear from more victims and will aggressively pursue all other leads we receive.”