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The Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles Fox, Associated Press
In this Dec, 31, 2012, photo, the vandalized construction site of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House in Philadelphia is shown. As unionized Philadelphia ironworkers struggled to find work amid the construction downturn, a goon squad that called themselves "The Helpful Union Guys," or "THUGS," flexed their muscle at non-union jobsites from 2008 to 2012, telling builders to hire their $73-an-hour members or face the union's wrath, a federal indictment charged this year.

PHILADELPHIA — A group of Philadelphia ironworkers dubbed "The Helpful Union Guys," or THUGS, admits destroying non-union construction sites as they pushed for union work.

Eight of the 12 ironworkers charged in a federal racketeering case this year have pleaded guilty in recent weeks.

They admit engaging in arson, assault and intimidation as they leaned on builders and contractors to hire them. The crimes include the arson of a Quaker meeting house just before Christmas in 2012.

Some of the ironworkers now face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering.

Defense lawyers say they were only trying to secure work to support their families.

Former Ironworkers Local 401 boss Joseph Dougherty plans to fight the charges. He goes on trial early next year.