HAMMOND — A former union official is going to prison for a 2016 attack on a nonunion work crew at a Dyer church.
U.S. District Court Judge James T. Moody imposed a 54-month sentence Monday on Thomas R. Williamson Sr., of Schererville. He also must help pay $30,869.00 restitution to victims of the assault.
Williamson pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit extortion, admitting he used threats and physical violence in a bid to obtain union contracts from D5 Iron Works, based in Union, Illinois.
He had been a business agent for the Iron Workers Local 395, based in Portage until his departure, following an attack five years ago on a D5 Iron Works work crew, installing steel framing for a school to be built for the Dyer Baptist Church.
The government alleges Local 395 had “territorial jurisdiction” over areas of Northwest Indiana, including Dyer, and Williamson routinely monitored job sites, looking for employers not using Local 395 ironworkers.
Williamson visited the Dyer work site and demanded D5's owner put union members on that job. The owner refused.
Williams stated in his plea agreement that, “I became angry, calling him a ... 'scab bastard' and grabbed his jacket. I also said we were going to have to take things back to ‘old school.’ By ‘old school’ I meant committing acts of violence against D5 and its workers.”
Williamson returned to the construction site the next day, Jan. 7, 2016, with a number of rank-and-file members of Local 395 who attacked D5 worker with fists, loose pieces of wood and steel-toed work boots. The attack left several injured, including one man whose jaw was broken multiple times.
Although local law enforcement never filed state charges, a federal grand jury indicted Williamson about two years later with violating federal law forbidding racketeering in labor-management disputes.
Defense attorneys Paul G. Stracci and J. Michael Woods of Crown Point argued in memos they wrote before sentencing that Williamson’s crime was an act of desperation amid the face of a decline in jobs for union workers.
They said Williams had devoted decades of his life to helping union members who had fallen on hard times through layoff, injury, death or illness, and to protecting a union that had lifted him out of a life of poverty.
They said he has been forced to retire and is barred by law from future union service.
Alexander B. Gottfried, of the United States Department of Justice Organized Crime and Gang Section, argued, in an earlier memo, that violence doesn’t advance the cause of labor. “Most union members recoil from such behavior. “(Williamson) didn’t organize a picket. He organized an ambush.”
Williamson’s co-defendant, former union president, Jeffrey Veach, 58, of Portage, is serving a 42-month sentenced at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, following his guilty plea and sentencing last year.