Grand jury report adds extortion to list of Ironworkers alleged crimes

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

Two counts of extortion have been added to the litany of charges leveled at members of the powerful Ironworkers Local 401 union in Philadelphia.

BROTHERLY LOVE? Not so much, it seems, when dealing with the Ironworkers’ Local 401 union, which had more charges leveled against its members this week.

A grand jury added the charges in a new indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia this week. The indictment details 14 separate incidents in which members of the Ironworkers Union used threats of violence and sabotage to win concessions from non-union contractors and other unions.

Among those charged was union boss Joseph Dougherty, who is alleged to have “coordinated the extortion of the non-union contractors,” according to the indictment.

“Dougherty instructed his business agents which projects to target for extortion and which projects he did not want them to sabotage,” the grand jury wrote. “Dougherty also determined how many union workers each contractor was required to hire to avoid being sabotaged by the Ironworkers Local 401.”

The other four men charged were involved in selecting projects for extortion and participated in the union’s “goon squad,” responsible for sabotaging projects by destroying equipment and threatening workers, the indictment claims.

All five members charged in the latest indictment were among the 10 members of the Ironworkers Local 401 who were charged in February with racketeering and participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts that included arson, extortion, the destruction of property and assault.

The earlier indictment detailed several incidents in which the defendants allegedly threatened or assaulted contractors and non-union workers at work sites in the Philadelphia area. The defendants referred to themselves as “The Helpful Union Guys” — or THUGs — and “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,” according to the indictment.

Among the crimes allegedly committed by the union members is the 2012 arson of a Quaker meeting house in Philadelphia. Three of the defendants allegedly set fire to a construction crane at the house and cut steel beams and bolts supporting part of the structure.

In the 25 episodes detailed by the new indictment, union members attacked non-union workers with baseball bats and crow bars, slashed tires of non-union contractors’ vehicles, smashed contractors’ equipment and set fire to construction sites. In many instances, the violence and threats of sabotage convinced project managers and contractors to hire the union members.

In one incident detailed in the new indictment, a non-union contractor hired two unnecessary members of the Ironworkers’ union for a project because he told Dougherty he “had heard horror stories” about the risks of angering the union and watched protection from potential sabotage.

Members of the union have maintained their innocence since the first indictment was released, but the union lost an effort to get the earlier charges dismissed on July 23 when a judge denied the motion.

Boehm can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org and follow @WatchdogORG and @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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