Forced Dues Fuel ‘Culture of Corruption’

Pennsylvania Union Dons Rally Round Accused Thief, Extortionist

Johnny Doc
Over the years, innumerable Big Labor politicians have paid homage to Pennsylvania electricians union boss John Dougherty (left). Today he remains entrenched in power despite facing three trials on a host of felony charges. (Credit: Originally Published in Politics PA)

This May, notorious Philadelphia union boss John Dougherty (AKA “Johnny Doc”) and half a dozen of his cohorts were expected to go on trial for embezzling more than $600,000 in union funds from rank-and-file electricians in Pennsylvania.

But May came and went, and the reality is it turned out well for Johnny Doc and other International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 union bigwigs. Their federal trial for embezzlement, bribery and theft has been pushed back to a yet-to-be-determined date.

And in early June Johnny Doc, who is separately awaiting trials on 19 extortion and conspiracy counts and on charges that he bribed a Philadelphia city councilman with a $70,000-a-year no-show job, received a big show of support from dozens of his fellow union bosses in the Keystone State.

On June 4, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the bosses of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council (PBCTC), a conglomerate of more than 50 unions, had just reelected Johnny Doc as their top officer.

The PBCTC has offered no public explanation as to why Johnny Doc deserved another term as business manager after he and his cohorts allegedly stole more than $600,000, primarily forced dues squeezed out of employees under their control. 

Pennsylvania Union Officials Seem to Live in an ‘Alternative World’

But in February 2019, the first time PBCTC officers met after Johnny Doc and company were charged, Philadelphia AFL-CIO President and PBCTC Secretary-Treasurer Pat Eiding emphasized to the Inquirer’s Juliana Feliciano Reyes that council support for the indicted union bigwig was universal.

“Nobody, and I clearly want to say nobody, asked John to leave the building trades,” declared Mr. Eiding.

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix commented:

“In the alternative world where Pat Eiding and many other Pennsylvania union officials live, it seems, there is nothing wrong with Big Labor union bosses’ using dues and fees that workers are forced to fork over as a job condition to enrich themselves and buy political influence.

“And a host of union-label Keystone State politicians also evidently live in that world.”

One remarkable illustration of the mindset of Big Labor Philadelphia politicians was their decision last fall to launch a legal defense fund for Councilman Bobby Henon, the former Local 98 staffer who allegedly wielded the power of his office to do Johnny Doc’s bidding in exchange for a series of bribes.

Mr. Henon even allegedly “weaponized the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections against non-union labor, sending them after a [union-free] company hired to install an MRI machine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” as an investigative journalist put it in a report for WHYY radio last year.

No Sensible Citizen Needs to Wait For a Jury to Tell Him Or Her Local 98 Is Crooked

“Of course,” said Mr. Mix, “Johnny Doc, Bobby Henon, and the rest of the IBEW gang all have a right to their day in court before they are subjected to any criminal punishment.

“But no citizen with a modicum of common sense needs to wait for a jury to tell him or her that Local 98 is a crooked operation that is not run for the benefit of the workers it purportedly represents.

“So why are other union officials and union-label politicians continuing to side with the Local 98 hierarchy rather than abused forced-dues-paying workers?

“The fact is, the lack of a Pennsylvania Right to Work law protecting employees has fostered a ‘culture of corruption’ in which many union bosses come to believe, whether they say so openly or not, that it’s okay for them to do whatever they wish with money extracted from unionized workers.

“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. 

“That’s a message union bosses in all 50 states can understand. It undoubtedly also helps account for the fact that documented cases of union corruption are far rarer in Right to Work states.”

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