Discrimination, Corruption, and Conspiracy in the Philly building Trade Unions

Jul 7 '19 | By Ray

One year ago a lawyer by the name of Michael Coard wrote a seven part series for the Philadelphia Tribune exposing the blatant racist practices of the construction industry in the Philly metropolitan area, and how the city council was being“pimped” by the labor unions. 

In his brilliant article titled, ‘Is Council pimped out to racist labor unions?’ Coard exposed now federally indicted, John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, Business Manager of Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council (PBCTC) as well as of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Attorney Michael Coard (photo above), who serves as an Adjunct Professor at Temple University, and according to his Twitter profile is an, “African, Attorney, Radio & TV Host, University Professor, Newspaper Columnist, and Magazine Journalist- but mostly just The Angriest Black Man in America,” exposed how in 2016 “Johnny Doc” and his PBCTC, a group of “white suburbanite men” were responsible for nearly 65 percent of small, city-funded construction projects, while having absolutely no Blacks whatsoever on the workforce in a city with a Black population approaching nearly 50 percent.

And According to Coard, “as of 2013, when the most reliable figures are available, about 80 percent of PBCTC carpenters, electricians, painters, etc. were white.”

“Although I’m not (yet) saying he, personally, is a racist, I am unequivocally saying his policies are blatantly racist and the unions he controls are blatantly racist because I do have incontrovertible evidence of that. And it’s the direct result of what we lawyers call “disparate impact.” In other words, while it’s relatively difficult to prove what’s in a person’s head, it’s easy to prove the effect- or impact- of what’s in his/her head. That is done by simply looking. And what I see in Dougherty’s policies and unions are racially ugly,” Michael Coard said in his Tribune article.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty spent 25 years controlling some of the biggest chess pieces in Philadelphia, building Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) into a political powerhouse that helped to elect mayors, council members, and members of the state Supreme Court, including his brother, Justice Kevin Dougherty. He’s been credited with playing an integral role in the ongoing redevelopment of the city’s Market East corridor.

In his heavy hitting article Coard asserts, “Let’s get back to Dougherty. In fact, let’s get back to him and Council jointly. In order to get the answer to my inquiry, i.e., “Is Council Pimped Out To Racist Labor Unions?,” I asked him these three questions:

1. What is the percentage of Black workers in IBEW Local 98 and also in each of the other 30 Philadelphia-area building trades unions (alphabetically) from Boilermakers Local 13 through Teamsters Local 312?

2. What exactly have you done within the past ten years to increase the percentage of Black workers in the local building trades unions?

3. Since 2008 through 2018, how much money have you, your labor union, and all PACs financially connected with you and also with your labor union contributed to each current Council member for election as well as reelection?”

But now “Johnny Doc” faces a 116-count indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the indictment which alleges embezzlement and conspiracy has many white Philadelphia tradesmen wondering can the their control of the council survive without its kingmaker, the political figure who amassed so much power behind the scenes, that he was more influential than the mayor.

According to the Inquirer,” Dougherty grew so powerful that he was soon able to pressure a conglomerate like Comcast, during private hotel meetings, to steer nearly $2 million worth of work to his old friend’s electrical company.”

And in 2015 “Johnny Doc” showed just how strong his political power and influence with working class voters had become when he correctly predicted that most of the city’s labor unions would unite around a single mayoral candidate, and they eventually did, electing Jim Kenney as Mayor of Philadelphia.

But, Mayor Jim Kenney, according to Coard, “who, is a white man; has taken a strong stand against racial discrimination in the construction industry has taken than the lead in calling for nearly 30 percent of all ‘Rebuild’ workforce hours to go to Black (as opposed to merely “minority”) workers.“

The Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) also “conducts Annual Disparity Studies to track the progress of Blacks and other “minorities” on major construction projects, which Coard hoped would "expose the outrageous racist disparities we all suspected,” according to Coard.

Yet, government lawyers have alleged among other charges that, City Councilman Henon, a union electrician elected in 2011 on a wave of Local 98 money, is a corrupt politician who sold his Council seat in exchange for a $73,000-a-year, do-nothing job. Prosecutors allege he then served as Dougherty’s puppet, backing votes and advancing government actions that benefited the labor leader’s personal and professional interests.

On March 21, “Johnny Doc” Dougherty urged a judge to dismiss all charges that he corruptly bought Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon’s vote on key issues, calling the allegations a “feeble attempt at criminalizing the legislative process.”

What U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl will make of "Johnny Doc's" assertions remains to be seen. No hearing had been scheduled to consider the defense motion as of Thursday, and prosecutors had not yet responded to it in court.

In recent years of Philly corruption, the city has seen its Congressman Chaka Fattah, the representative from the 2nd congressional district, indicted and found guilty on racketeering charges. The Federal government found Chaka guilty of siphoning money from an education nonprofit to repay an illegal campaign loan, and sentenced him to 10 years in federal prison.

“I don’t like what Dougherty does as a labor leader who fights for guaranteed jobs for his fellow white men. But I do respect anyone who fights for his or her people. I wish I could say the same about all the Black Council members.” Coard states in his article, “But I can’t because some are like Olivia in the classic 1978 Whispers song and, therefore, are “lost and turned out” by having been pimped out.”


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