Indiana union reps plead guilty to beating McHenry County-based ironworkers over church job site

A pair of Indiana union representatives have pleaded guilty to beating a group of McHenry County-based ironworkers at a church in 2016.

Former Ironworkers Union Local 395 President and business agent Jeffrey Veach and his fellow business agent, Thomas Williamson Sr., accepted plea deals Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in the Hammond division.

Each man pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy to commit extortion, the charges of which stemmed from a January 2016 attack that broke the jaw of an employee of the union-based company D5 Iron Works, court records show.

Sometime before the confrontation, Veach and Williamson learned that D5 was completing a construction job for a Baptist church in Dyer, Indiana, federal plea agreements show. According to Veach and Williamson’s plea agreements, the church site was within Local 395’s “territory,” but D5 did not have a labor contract with the union.

On the morning of Jan. 7, 2016, Veach and Williamson visited the church in an attempt to persuade the D5 owner to either sign up with Local 395 or stop work on the job, records show.

When the owner refused, Williamson called the man profanities, grabbed his jacket and threatened to “take things back to old school,” plea documents show.

Williamson and Veach later returned to the job site with more union members that afternoon and struck several D5 employees with loose pieces of hardwood, kicked and punched them.

One D5 worker was hospitalized as a result of the attack and required several surgeries for a broken jaw, according to the plea deal.

Both Williamson and Veach face between two and 4½ years in prison. The U.S. probation office must complete individual pre-sentence investigations into the backgrounds and current circumstances of both men before a sentencing hearing is set.

Neither man’s attorney could be reached for comment Friday.

A related federal lawsuit has been on hold since June awaiting the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

According to the 20-count civil complaint, Local 395 employees wore steel-toed boots and shouted “This is union work!” “This is 395’s work!” “This is 395’s territory” and “Don’t come back!” at D5 employees during the attack.

Robert Hanlon, the attorney representing D5 Iron Workers in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment Friday on how Veach and Williamson’s guilty pleas might affect the federal lawsuit.

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