Local Union Members Accused of Violent Intimidation

Federal prosecutors accuse a local Philadelphia union of using "goon squads" to target construction sites not using union workers.

"This will not be tolerated. It's not the way to do business here in Philadelphia," said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.

On Tuesday morning, Memeger announced that more than 100 FBI agents, prosecutors and Philadelphia Police officers teamed up to arrest 10 members of Ironworkers Local Union 401.

The indictment against members of Local 401 accuses some of the suspects of using baseball bats, torching a future religious site and threats of violence to induce employers to hire union workers.

"The defendants used 'goon squads,' which included union members and associates who committed assaults, arsons and other violent and destructive acts, to make their point emphatically clear," said Memeger. "That point, to any contractor or builder, was, 'You better hire local ironworker union members, or you will pay a heavy price.'"

One group even alleged called themselves "'THUG' -- The Helpful Union Guys," according to Memeger.

The union's treasurer and business manager Joseph Dougherty, city business agent Edward Sweeney and county business agent Christopher Prophet were among those arrested.

Also named in the federal indictment were William Gillin, Daniel Hennigar, Francis Sean O'Donnell, William O'Donnell, Richard Ritchie, Greg Sullivan and James Walsh.

All the defendants face conspiracy charges. O'Donnell faces the least prison time -- up to 20 years -- while Dougherty, Gillin, Sweeney and Walsh each face up to 130 years in prison.

The indictment documented 11 episodes over three-plus years through October 2013. In a statement, Philadelphia's FBI special agent-in-charge, Edward J. Hanko, called the union's tactics "outrageous and brazen'' and said he expected more victims to come forward.

The indictment also alleges that Walsh led a group including Gillin that set fire to a crane at a Quaker meetinghouse site where non-union workers were being used. 

In 2010, members of Ironworkers Local 401 allegedly went to a Toys R Us construction site in suburban King of Prussia and flattened about 80 anchor bolts and damaged the control panel on a piece of construction equipment, according to prosecutors. Ritchie is also accused of using a baseball bat to attack non-union workers at the site.

Setting a crane on fire and cutting steel beams supporting at a Quaker meetinghouse in December 2012 helped caused $500,000 damage there, prosecutors said.

The bust was the first that targeted a Philadelphia union since Memeger took over in 2010.

In a statement, Walter W. Wise, president of the Ironworkers international union, said "we have never and will never tolerate any of the alleged acts contained in the accusations.''

The men were arraigned Tuesday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge and released with conditions, Memeger's office said.

In the aftermath of the arrests, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz’s campaign confirmed they would “re-donate” the $10,000 she received from the ironworkers. Schwartz will give the money to a firefighter’s charity.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us