By Columnist Jim Kouri
Federal law enforcement officials on Tuesday arrested and charged 10 members of a major labor organization, that supported – and contributed millions to – President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, in a large-scale RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Criminal Organizations) case , according to a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The members of the Ironworkers Union’s Local 401 in Pennsylvania are charged with alleged criminal acts, including arson, extortion, assault, and the destruction of private property, in order to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Local 401 business manager, 72-year-old Joe Dougherty, as well as union representatives Ed Sweeney, Sean O’Donnell, Christopher Prophet, and William O’Donnell, and five other officials are facing serious prison time if convicted of the charges, according to the FBI and prosecutors.
The federal indictment reveals several incidents in which the union officials behaved as if they were organized crime figures rather than labor activists. According to the FBI, they threatened or assaulted contractors and their employees, damaged construction equipment and vandalized job sites in order to force contractors to hire Local 401 workers, even when those workers did no work.
The Ironworkers Union locals are major contributors to the Democratic Party and big supporters of President Barack Obama’s programs including Obamacare. So far, in the run-up to the November 2014 elections, the Ironworkers contributed over $600,000.00 to the Democrats especially Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Rep. Bruce Braily, D-Iowa, and others, according to reports.
Memeger claimed the defendants resorted to what he characterized as “strongarm-style tactics of the 1940s and ‘50s.”
“The defendants used goon squads which included union members and associates who committed assaults, arsons, and other violent and destructive acts to make their point emphatically clear. And that point to any contractor or builder was, you’d better hire local ironworker union members or you will pay a heavy price,” Memeger said.
One such squad referred to itself as the “The Helpful Union Guys,” or THUGs, according to FBI officials.
Among the criminal acts mentioned in the indictment is the 2012 arson of a Quaker Meetinghouse under construction in the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia.
According to the federal indictment, the union officials had a large cadre individuals to help locate construction projects where workers were not part of the Ironworkers Union.
The prosecutors allege that union representatives would meet with the construction foremen at those non-union work sites and “imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property or other criminal acts unless union members were hired.”
The FBI’s press statement claims these defendants relied on their 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.
In one incident last year, the defendants Sweeney and O’Donnell, under Dougherty’s direction, set up a union picket line and threatened the contractor building an apartment complex if he did not hire Local 401 members. The indictment claims the contractor gave up “his profits and turned the job over to a union-affiliated contractor as a result of the threats.”
“The strong-arm tactics we have seen in this case are outrageous and brazen – and an unfortunate blow to the worthy intentions of unionism,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward Hanko.
“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,” Hanko said.