Is Stealing From Union Treasuries Wrong?

‘Stealing From [Union] Members . . . Is Wrong’

Last summer, even as the FBI was investigating her, now-indicted IBEW Local 98 Political Director Marita Crawford (left) schmoozed at a posh Philadelphia restaurant with soon-to-be U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Credit: Twitter

Why Won’t Philadelphia Union Officials Simply Admit It Is?

For years and years, federal investigators have been watching while International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty and his cohorts seemed to use their union’s forced dues-laden treasury as their personal piggy bank.

Two-and-a-half years ago, in the summer of 2016, FBI agents searched Mr. Dougherty’s home as well as a number of Local 98 offices and building sites.

But no arrests came, and the Local 98 hierarchy continued to wield extraordinary power over commercial construction jobs in the City of Brotherly Love and act as an electoral kingmaker in local, state and federal politics.

Ordinary Philadelphia citizens had ample reason to suspect that Mr. Dougherty, widely referred to as “Johnny Doc,” and other shady construction union kingpins in eastern Pennsylvania were still above the law — until a few weeks ago.

Indictment Alleges Johnny Doc, Associates Stole More Than $600,000 in Union Funds

On January 30, Johnny Doc and five other Local 98 officers and staff members were charged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with embezzlement, bribery and theft.

Also charged in the 116-count federal indictment were Bobby Henon, a former Local 98 operative who has remained on the union payroll since becoming a Philadelphia city councilman in 2011, and Anthony Massa, a contractor who has long been cozy with Johnny Doc.

According to prosecutors, over the course of roughly six years Johnny Doc and company stole more than $600,000 in union funds, primarily dues and fees that the employees under their control are forced to fork over as a job condition due to Pennsylvania’s lack of a Right to Work law.

The loot was allegedly spent on no-show jobs for relatives and other cronies of Local 98 bosses, multi-hundred-dollar meals at restaurants including the tony Palm Philadelphia, and innumerable retail purchases ranging from big-screen TVs to baby supplies and Lucky Charms cereal.

Local 98 chiefs are also believed to have accepted bribes in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in free construction work on their own homes, their other personal properties, and the homes of relatives from Mr. Massa and George Peltz, a New Jersey-based electrical contractor.

For years, Philadelphia mayors and City Council members and a host of other politicians have been beholden to Johnny Doc for forced dues-funded manpower that helps get them elected and reelected. And they know who’s the boss. Credit: Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News

Children’s Hospital Was Allegedly Threatened by Dougherty-Backed Politician

Yet another charge against Johnny Doc is that he directed his henchman on the city council, Mr. Henon, to threaten a children’s hospital administrator for using union-free labor to install MRI machines!

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix commented:

“No one who had been paying even minimal attention to the activities of the notorious Local 98 brass over the years could have been the least bit surprised to be told that Johnny Doc and his lieutenants have been feathering their own nests at workers’ expense.

“More than a decade ago, unionized Philadelphia contractor Gus Dougherty (who is not related to Johnny Doc) pleaded guilty to bribing the Local 98 honcho in exchange for the latter’s looking the other way while he shortchanged Local 98-‘represented’ employees on their wages and benefits.

“Gus Dougherty went to prison, while no charges were filed against the man he admitted to bribing!”

‘The Biggest Independent Source of Campaign Money’ in Pennsylvania

Despite the stench of corruption that has long been emanating from Local 98 headquarters, federal, state and local Big Labor politicians continued, right up to the day of the indictments, to court them.

As Jeremy Roebuk and David Gambacorta observed in a report on the indictments for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Local 98 machine is “the biggest independent source of campaign money” in Pennsylvania:

“Union money and manpower [financed mostly with dues workers are forced to pay, or lose their jobs] have helped elect mayors, City Council members, county commissioners, members of Congress, state legislators, governors, and more than 60 judges . . . .”

To show their gratitude for Local 98 union bosses’ cash contributions and their forced-dues-funded electioneering activities, Big Labor politicians ranging from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have frequently paid their respects when they visit Philadelphia.

Nancy Pelosi Schmoozed With Local 98 Officer While FBI Was Investigating Her

Just last summer, for example, Ms. Pelosi schmoozed with Local 98 Political Director Marita Crawford at a Democrat congressional fundraiser in a posh restaurant on North Broad Street. (Ms. Crawford is one of the Local 98 officers who were indicted on January 30.)

And since federal prosecutors unveiled their massive case against Johnny Doc, Marita Crawford, and the rest, politicians such as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) have been extraordinarily reluctant to distance themselves from their longtime patrons.

Indicted Union Bosses Experience ‘Outpouring’ of Big Labor ‘Support’ For Them

Meanwhile, many of Johnny Doc’s fellow union bosses are going out of their way to express their support for him!

Mr. Mix commented:

“In the alternative world where Johnny Doc lives, it seems, there is nothing wrong with Big Labor bosses using dues and fees that workers are forced to fork over as a job condition to buy political influence and enrich themselves.

“Since the 159-page indictment that painstakingly documents systematic misuse of forced union dues and other union treasury money by Johnny Doc and his cohorts became public, there has actually been an ‘outpouring of support’ for them, according to journalist Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon.

“And the support for the indicted Local 98 brass appears to be strongest of all among Philadelphia union officialdom.

“For example, officers of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council [PBCTC], which along with IBEW Local 98 is headed by Johnny Doc, held their first post-indictment meeting on February 6.

“After the private meeting, union bigwigs who were present assured Juliana Feliciano Reyes of the Inquirer that support for Johnny Doc and company is universal.

“Ms. Feliciano Reyes quoted Pat Eiding, secretary-treasurer of the PBCTC and president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO:

“‘Nobody, and I clearly want to say nobody, asked John to leave the Building Trades.’”

Big Labor ‘Culture of Corruption’ Thrives in Forced-Dues Pennsylvania

“The fact is, the lack of a Right to Work law protecting employees has fostered a ‘culture of corruption’ in Pennsylvania 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 like with money extracted from unionized workers,” declared Mr. Mix.

“Without acknowledging the source, one Organized Labor partisan in the Philadelphia area has decried this culture.

“In a February 4 article for the Inquirer, Ms. Feliciano Reyes quoted Kati Sipp, the editor of the Hack the Union blog, regarding her distress about union officials and Big Labor-allied politicians who are either openly supportive of Johnny Doc, or refuse to say anything at all about the indictments.

“Ms. Sipp asked: ‘Is there a [union official] in Philly who will stand up and say, “What Doc is alleged to have done –stealing from the members — is wrong”?’

“The unwillingness of any union official in Philadelphia of any stature to say plainly, in the wake of the IBEW Local 98 indictments, that stealing from union members is wrong highlights the glaring need for 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. “That’s a message union bosses can understand.  It undoubtedly helps account for the fact that documented cases of union corruption are far more rare in Right to Work states.” 

(source: April 2019 National Right To Work Newsletter)