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Big Labor Politicians Still Can’t Admit Truth About Johnny Doc

Shout out: The rule of law in this city is, shall we say, flexible, and corruption is a cost of doing business...

Image | Nicajo

Shout out: The rule of law in this city is, shall we say, flexible, and corruption is a cost of doing business.

Your turn: Will a reform movement develop in Philadelphia, can we demand better in our city?

Send your thoughts to voices@philadelphiaweekly.com.


On November 15, a federal jury found that Philadelphia union kingpin John Dougherty, commonly referred to as “Johnny Doc,” had for years furnished a salary, benefits, and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of sporting event tickets to City Councilman Bobby Henon. In exchange, Henon abused the powers of his office to serve as Dougherty’s political errand boy.

Ample evidence presented by the prosecutors and never controverted by the defense in the trial concluding in the criminal convictions of Dougherty and Henon made it plain to all fair-minded observers that Johnny Doc — the top-ranking officer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 from 1993 until he was finally forced to step down on November 16 — did not run this operation for the rank-and-file’s benefit.

For example, prosecutors showed how Dougherty had ordered Henon to, in the words of Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Sean Collins Walsh, “manipulate the timing of legislation on the plumbing code to get leverage” over plumbers union bosses as Dougherty campaigned to become the top officer of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council (PBCTC), a conglomerate of more than 50 unions.

Prosecutors also showed how Henon had allowed Dougherty to use his office to issue his demand to Comcast executives that they must hire a company owned by Dougherty crony George Peltz if they wished to retain their cable franchise with the city. In exchange for such political favors, Peltz’s company supplied Dougherty with $57,000 worth of home and office improvements at no charge, and also lavished him with gift cards and gift certificates worth thousands of dollars. Peltz employees who installed televisions in Dougherty’s home were paid in cash and illegally denied the fringe benefits they were owed for their time and effort.

Big Labor Democrat Mayor Jim Kenney, who never hesitated to accept campaign support from the Local 98 machine even after Dougherty was indicted for conspiracy and Dougherty and several other Local 98 bigwigs were indicted for collectively stealing more than $600,000 in union funds in early 2019, is obviously well aware of Dougherty’s long history of putting his personal political and financial agendas over the interests of rank-and-file workers.

And yet, in a post-conspiracy conviction exchange with the news staff of ABC affiliate WPVI, Kenney ludicrously claimed that, in his experience, every favor Dougherty requested was “for his members” and “Organized Labor” generally!

A number of other longtime beneficiaries of Local 98 political largesse, including union-label Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, have yet even to try to distance themselves from Johnny Doc. A recent Inquirer report counted several other high-profile state politicians like Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and GOP Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman among those who have yet to disavow Local 98 political support.

Why won’t Kenney, Wolf, and many other pro-forced unionism politicians in the Keystone State at last repudiate the crimes of Johnny Doc now that a jury has found him guilty on eight counts of conspiracy and honest services fraud?  With a second Dougherty federal trial for embezzlement now looming, and a third trial for extortion a distinct possibility, they know there is no chance he will simply disappear any time soon.

The fact is, Kenney, Wolf and other politicians who oppose passage of a state Right to Work law prohibiting the termination of Pennsylvania employees for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union have no choice but to maintain the pretense that all union officials, even convicted crooks like Johnny Doc, have workers’ best interest at heart.

If Kenney, Wolf, et al. admit the obvious and denounce Dougherty and other current high-ranking Local 98 officials for betraying the very people they are supposed to represent, they will have no excuse left for their continued opposition to a Pennsylvania Right to Work law.

In a Right to Work environment, union members who suspect their dues money isn’t being used for good and proper purposes can fight back by resigning from the organization and cutting off all financial support for it.

Why shouldn’t shady Pennsylvania union bosses be held accountable in this way? Mayor Kenney and Gov. Wolf don’t want to talk about it.

Mark Mix is President of the National Right to Work Committee.

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