Lawsuit Alleges Local Union President Participated in Church Assault
A lawsuit originally filed just over a year ago charges that officers of AFL-CIO-affiliated Iron Workers Local 395 led a January 2016 assault on tradesmen employed at a church-owned construction site in northwestern Indiana.
According to the complaint, on January 6, the day before the assault occurred, Thomas Williamson Sr., a business agent for Local 395, intruded on the Lake County site where the Plum Creek Christian Academy (PCCA) was being expanded.
Williamson ignored an admonition from plaintiff Richard Lindner, who was then operating a crane on the site, to leave because he was interfering with business operations and trespassing.
Undeterred, Williamson proceeded to pressure Lindner, the president of the Cary, Ill.-based firm D5 Iron Works Inc. as well as an equipment operator, to convert his union-free project into a union-only one.
When Lindner refused, Williamson walked over to the school offices of the nearby Dyer Baptist Church, which runs the academy. There, Williamson pressured Pastor Lee Atkinson to terminate D5’s contract unless it kowtowed to Local 395 bigwigs. Apparently Williamson didn’t like what he heard from the clergyman.
The following day, at roughly three in the afternoon, Williamson and a group of union thugs returned to the building site, according to Lindner and other witnesses.
A report filed last month for InsideSources by journalist Connor Wolf (see the link below to read the whole thing) cites plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Avakian and the updated and amended complaint regarding what happened next:
Construction worker Scott Kudingo was among those who were assaulted. The lawsuit states that he was thrown to the ground, and beaten by the union members. He was kicked by steel-toe-boots. He suffered numerous injuries. His face was fractured, and he had to have his jaw wired shut.
“Scott Kudingo who got beaten, hit in the face, had his jaw crushed and broken in three places, he’s been sort of put back together, but the doctors want to break it all again because it hasn’t healed correctly,” Avakian said. “So it’s another long series of painful carrying on.”
Kudingo begged the attackers to stop but they refused. Lindner and Joe Weil, another colleague, tried to intervene, but the union officials turned on them too. Weil was allegedly beaten with wooden boards during the attack. He was also stomped on.
“Here’s the kicker for the employer,” Avakian said. “Its cost of doing business has now increased dramatically because the medical worker comp insurance kicked in to take care of the medical expenses for the four guys.”
Avakian adds the incident will be considered a workplace accident unless proven otherwise. D5 Iron Works will essentially be responsible for the injuries unless the case is adjudicated against the union. The company could end up incurring radically increased worker compensation costs.
InsideSources also pointed out that witness statements taken by the police indicate Local 395 President Jeffrey Veach as well as Business Agent Williamson and his son, Local 395’s “sergeant at arms,” participated in the attack, joined by roughly 10 henchmen.
Although the Dyer Police Department investigated the assault charges against Local 395 bosses and other union militants, it never took any action against the union. Instead, Dyer law enforcement turned the case over to the U.S. Labor and Justice Departments. However, no federal charges have yet been filed against Thomas Williams Sr. and company, either.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit stemming from the alleged attack is now in the discovery phase. Since it is a civil action, the only remedies it can obtain for the plaintiffs are financial reimbursement for their medical expenses, business losses, and perhaps their pain and suffering, plus an injunction to deter future attacks by Local 395 thugs.
Because D5 Iron Works is based in Illinois, and the PCCA building site is in Indiana, Local 395 officials and their militant followers could potentially be prosecuted under the federal Hobbs Act, which prohibits the use of extortionate violence and threats in interstate commerce.
Unfortunately, 44 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court’s Enmons decision exempted threats, vandalism and violence perpetrated to secure “legitimate” union goals from Hobbs Act prosecutions.
The Enmons loophole often makes it extraordinarily difficult to prosecute union lawbreakers. And weak-kneed prosecutors often use this loophole as an excuse not to bring forward union-violence cases even when Enmons arguably isn’t applicable.
But Congress has the power to close the Enmons loophole. That’s what the Freedom from Union Violence Act, sponsored in the 2015-16 Congress by then-Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), would do. The Freedom from Union Violence Act would hold union officials who commit or foment extortionate violence to the same legal standard as anyone else who does the same.
The National Right to Work Committee is currently working with Capitol Hill allies to get this important reform introduced and considered in the new Congress.