Iron Workers president pleads guilty in extortion case

(WISH Photo, File)

HAMMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Two union officials, including the current president, from Iron Workers Local 395 in Portage have pleaded guilty in federal court to extortion charges. Federal officials say the charges stem from a violent worksite brawl four years ago.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for Northern Indiana says union president Jeff Veach and Thomas Williamson, who is a former business agent for Local 395, threatened non-union laborers at a construction site on January 6, 2016 to extort a favorable labor contract from the owners of a construction company and a steel-working company.

The construction site was for a new school affiliated with a church in Dyer.

Later that day, a group of 10 rank-and-file members of Local 395 returned to the job site and allegedly attacked the non-union workers, beating them with fists and lumber, according to the Department of Justice. Several of the non-union works sustained serious injuries, including a broken jaw.

Veach and Williamson pleaded guilty Friday to one count of extortion conspiracy. As a result, Veach will forfeit his position as president and both men will be barred from holding any union position for at least 13 years.

Veach has also resigned from the Portage Plan Commission and city Park Board. The paper says Veach is not required to resign from the posts until he is sentenced, but he chose to step down ahead of the criminal plea.

A sentencing date was not set during Friday’s hearing. Under the plea, the two men face a prison term that could range between 24 months and 54 months.