Philadelphia Ironworkers Union Members Charged with Extortion
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In what seems to be a news story straight out of Gotham City, ABC news correspondent Donna Puglisi has reported that a group of ironworkers from Philadelphia, PA have been indicted and arrested for a multitude of criminal activities. These include: criminal acts of extortion, destruction of property, and assault in order to force nonunion construction contractors to hire union ironworkers. The FBI believes that the pattern of violence and intimidation began in 2010, and if the men are convicted of all charges they will each serve between 35 to 130 years in prison.

Before they started intimidating contractors around Philadelphia, though they needed a name. And not just any ordinary name. They needed one that would boost their street-cred and make them sound like they belonged in a DC comic book. The organization created a variety of “goon” squads who had each had the opportunity to name their gang. One squad named themselves the THUGs (points for originality on that one), which stands for “The Helpful Union Guys.” These ‘helpful’ guys stand accused of assault, arson, and destruction of property.

The first report of malicious activity came between May and June of 2010. The event in question began in peaceful protest, but spiraled out of control when four of the defendants assaulted nonunion ironworkers with baseball bats.

Three years later, in December of 2012, the union conducted an arson of the Quaker Meeting House. In response to a contractor refusing to hire union ironworkers, three men went to the construction site and set a steel crane on fire. They also sabotaged other equipment which resulted in significant damages.

Their last episode occurred in July, 2013. The defendants threatened the contractor of an apartment complex under construction and forced him to relinquish his profits because he, like the others that the defendants extorted, did not hire Local 401 ironworker union members. He gave the job to a union-affiliated contractor.

Unions can be a great asset for those workers who treat the organization fairly and behave morally. And, with people still struggling to find work, it only stands to reason that some people would prefer not to be associated with a union in order to make themselves competitive.