There are 17 members on City Council and nine are Black (which culturally includes Brown). There is one 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).
In terms of basic math, you’d think nine individuals have more power than one individual. But you’d be wrong in this case. Why do those nine, along with a few of the “woke” non-Blacks on Council, continue to allow blatant racism to fester year after year and decade after decade in city-funded construction projects without constantly yelling and resisting and demanding and then legislating substantive change? A few of them have been raising a valiant hue and cry, but not nearly enough of them.
You’d think they all would’ve gone even farther than Mayor Jim Kenney, who, as a white man, has taken an even stronger stand than too many of them. I have to grudgingly admit that he’s done more than many of them by taking the lead in calling for nearly 30 percent of all Rebuild workforce hours to go to Black (as opposed to merely “minority”) workers. And his Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) conducts Annual Disparity Studies to track the progress of Blacks and other “minorities” on major construction projects, which will expose the outrageous racist disparities we all suspected. Also, his OEO this year hired two new Enforcement Specialists to monitor compliance with Economic Opportunity Plan mandates.
I must state that I didn’t expect a white Mayor to take such commendable steps (even though they’re not nearly enough). I also must state that I did expect the Black Council members together to do much more. However, so far, my expectations have been dashed. But only temporarily, I hope.
Based on the position taken by many persons throughout the city, I’d love to say Dougherty is a racist. But I’m not (at least not for the time being). So does that mean I’m saying he’s not a racist? Of course I’m not saying that either (again, at least not for the time being). When I say and write stuff, I want to make sure I can back it up with irrefutable evidence. Maybe a reader of this column can provide me with specific examples either way based on what that reader himself/herself has actually seen Dougherty do or actually heard him say. I need to know the particulars.
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. Here’s just a piece of the hideous picture.
His PBCTC is the group of white men who, in 2016, was responsible for nearly 65 percent of small, city-funded construction projects having absolutely no Blacks whatsoever on the workforce in a city with a Black population approaching nearly 50 percent. And as of 2013, when the most reliable figures are available, about 80 percent of PBCTC carpenters, electricians, painters, etc. were white.
You’re probably wondering why I refer to “Blacks” instead of “minorities.” It’s because my concern is exclusively for Blacks since they were the only ones whose ancestors were kidnapped, sold, and enslaved and the only ones who were lynched, forced into sharecropping, relegated to second-class citizenship through local, state, and federal laws, victimized by Jim Crow, denied education and vocational training, and the only ones who are still discriminated against in employment more than anyone else.
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?
He agreed to answer them for publication in an upcoming column. And not only will I be asking the same three questions to the Business Managers/Presidents in each of the other 30 Philly-area building trades unions from Boilermakers Local 13 through Teamsters Local 312, I’ll also be asking similar questions to each of the 17 Council members.
By the way, Dougherty sent a June 6 letter to Council claiming that the “Building Trades receive very few hiring recommendations for kids of color from members of City Council. In fact, the requests from Council members for us to host fundraisers for them or make campaign contributions to them outnumber recommendations of qualified minority kids by a margin of 50 to 1.” I hope he’s lying. But if he is, why hasn’t any Council member condemned him for it? You think it’s because they know he’s telling the truth?
Stay tuned. In subsequent columns, I’ll be naming names after following- and exposing- the money. And that’s gonna get uglier than racism in the city’s labor unions.
All I want for Black workers is equitable (not merely equal) access and opportunity. That’s why I’m writing these columns and, in the process, doing precisely what Frederick Douglass taught me to do, which, as he said, is to “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” because, in his words, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.”
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. 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.