Union Thugs Plead Guilty, Anticipate a Do-Over

Under Misbegotten 1973 High Court Precedent, They May Get One

Union Violence
Two Indiana union bosses have admitted to orchestrating a bloody attack on innocent workers, but they still maintain that they cannot be punished for using extortionate violence as an “organizing” tool. (Credit: Scott Hilling for Engineering News-Record)

Four-and-a-half years ago, a pack of union goons stormed a union-free worksite at a northwestern Indiana church and brutally assaulted the workers there.

Dyer Baptist Church was building a new facility for its school, Plum Creek Christian Academy. As part of this effort, the church contracted with D5 Iron Works Inc., a small business based just across the border in Illinois.

This did not sit well with the bosses of Iron Workers Local 395, because D5 workers are not forced to accept Big Labor’s “representation” as a condition of employment.

According to a court document, Local 395 President Jeffrey Veach and Business Agent Thomas Williamson “gathered up” a gang of union enforcers, traveled to the worksite, and then “attacked the D5 workers and beat them with fists and loose pieces of hardwood, kicking them while they were on the ground.”

And as the two union bosses ultimately admitted in court, one D5 worker sustained serious bodily injury in the form of a broken jaw, which required several surgeries, extended hospitalization, and medical treatment.

Enmons and the Union Violence Loophole

Scott Kudingo was one of the nonunion victims of this violent attack. Union thugs were seen “clubbing, kicking and punching” him “in the face, arms, back, and body.” 

His jaw was “shattered in part” and fractured “in two other places.” It is believed that at least some of the attackers were wearing “steel toed boots.”

No reasonable person has ever doubted that Local 395 bigwigs are responsible for the attack. 

After all, it was Mr. Williamson who told Mr. Veach that they should “go back to old school” to punish the “scab bastards” on the site.

One might ask why justice was so long in coming. 

It took more than two years for criminal charges to be filed, and a full four years before guilty pleas were entered.

The answer lies in a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision called United States v. Enmons. 

In that controversial 5-4 decision, the Court created a gaping loophole in the Hobbs Act, which prohibits extortionate violence and threats in interstate commerce. Enmons declared that Big Labor threats and violence are immune from any Hobbs prosecution as long as they are committed in the pursuit of “legitimate union objectives” — a term left undefined.

Because of the Enmons loophole, Hobbs Act prosecutions of union officials are quite rare. And it is this very loophole that was repeatedly invoked by union lawyers representing Mr. Veach and Mr. Williamson. 

They argued that, because the Local 395 thugs attacked the church worksite simply to “secure” jobs for union laborers, their conduct was immune under Enmons.

U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann had other ideas. 

She interpreted Enmons as protecting union bosses who target a unionized business that resists their demands, and those who target employees who defy strike orders.  

But in her assessment it does not protect goons who target nonunion business owners or workers in order to “secure” union jobs.

Government ‘Acknowledges’ Pleaders ‘Have Not Waived Their Right to Appeal’

Certain other judges have agreed. But this is a more narrow application than jurists such as Douglas Woodlock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts have allowed.

Mr. Veach and Mr. Williamson have made clear they intend to appeal, explicitly stating in their guilty pleas that they do “not waive” their “right to appeal” their convictions. Furthermore, the pleas specify that the “United States acknowledges” that they “have not waived this right” as well.

Despite their having already entered guilty pleas and recently being sentenced to prison, if these two union bosses can find a different judge willing to say that Enmons applies to their case, they will be able potentially to regain their freedom after serving out only a small portion of their sentences.

“It is simply obscene that the organizers of this brutal assault might go free because of a decades-old loophole created by the Supreme Court,” said National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad.

“Because the Supreme Court in Enmons interpreted the Hobbs Act, and not the Constitution, the loophole can be easily closed by an act of Congress.

“That is why Right to Work members are now calling on members of Congress to cosponsor and seek recorded votes on H.R.4256, the Freedom from Union Violence Act. 

“This common-sense legislation would close the Enmons loophole, making it clear in federal law that union thugs will be held responsible for their violent conduct.”