Indiana Iron Workers Boss Sentenced Under Hobbs Act for Extortion, Violence

Jeffrey Veach may see himself as “old school,” but he’s about to get a new kind of education. On September 23, Veach, former president of the Portage, Ind.-based International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 395, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to 42 months in prison for conspiracy to threaten and commit violence against nonunion workers at a construction site in Dyer, Ind. He and other union members had tried to shake down an out-of-state contractor into hiring only union labor. He and another member, Thomas Williamson Sr., had pleaded guilty in January after being charged in August 2018. Williamson, who also pleaded guilty, is set for sentencing on December 15. The actions follow a probe by the FBI, the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and the Dyer Police Department.

Union Corruption Update covered this case twice before (here and here). On January 6, 2016, Veach, now 57, and Williamson, now 69, had become highly irritated that a Cary, Ill.-based nonunion contractor, D5 Iron Works, had hired a crew to work on an expansion project for a religious school in Dyer. According to eyewitnesses, Williamson instructed Richard Lindner, a crane operator and D5 president, to “sign up” with the union or cease work at once. Lindner effectively told him to get lost. Williamson then tried to persuade a pastor at the church sponsor to go union. Again, he was rebuked. The following day, Williamson, accompanied by Veach, returned to the site to confront Lindner, who, once again, refused to back down. At that point, Williamson grabbed Lindner’s jacket and called him a “scab bastard.” Veach and Williamson then decided it was time to “go back to old school.” The pair left the site and returned about 3 P.M. with about 10 union members ready to rumble. The union guys went into pack attack mode against the nonunion workers with fists, steel-toed boots and pieces of hardwood. At least one of the victims required surgery at an area hospital.

D5 Iron Works and five of its workers, properly outraged, filed a civil suit against Local 395 the following month, seeking $3 million in actual damages plus an unspecified sum in punitive damages. That suit, reportedly still active, triggered a criminal prosecution against Veach, Williamson and several unidentified defendants for extortion conspiracy under the Hobbs Act, a 1946 piece of legislation that bars the use of robbery or extortion as a means of inhibiting interstate commerce. While unions, as business organizations, are covered by the law, prosecutors for decades have encountered an extra high bar in labor cases. That is because the U.S. Supreme Court in its Enmons decision (1973) gave unions leeway in justifying intimidation if related to “legitimate” business objectives. In this case, however, the defendants’ criminal behavior was so blatant that even the broadest interpretation of Enmons could not save them. Veach, who already had stepped down as local president, pleaded guilty in January of this year to one count of extortion conspiracy. Now he’s won himself a 42-month sentence. Williamson soon likely will receive a similar fate.