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.

Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD96.1FM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

(12) comments


Mr. Dougherty makes a compelling point....”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”

Embarrassing and shameful. And don’t you know that he makes that point all the time with his friends.

Come on African American politicians. Be leaders! Come on black people, support your elected officials so they don’t have to go around begging other communities for help. If we want an elected official to truly represent us and fight for us, they must have our financial support.

Thank you Michael Coard, for not being afraid to tell the truth.


We have to have the extra money to be able to support. By being included like them
on jobs we will be able and should then show our support.
Iron Lady


David Oh is the only Councilmember to vote against it.


This is what happens in all major cities , where Republicans are in office, right ?




Mr. Coard ,
I do appreciate your article, but we all know this has been a taboo subject for the Construction Industry in the City of Philadelphia in regards to the Underground workings of the IBEW 98.
Just like the Me Too Movement or Justice Reform there needs to be minority reform in regards to the Philadelphia Electrical Union.
Maybe you will be the match that starts the fire.

When you talk to Mr. Dougherty or City Council please ask them to explain how 10 Black Electricians can take the IBEW 98 test to prove they are a mechanics and none pass the test. Men who had been in the electrical trade for decades, this happened in 2003.They would never get into the union or make what their white counterparts made.
Also explain why Black Electricians are used as salts & or B wiremen( would love to know the breakout of these classifications), never to get into the brotherhood , again making LESS than their white counter parts , pimped out as spies and left in Labor Limbo.
Also ask him to explain what happened to the program with the School District of Philadelphia where the IBEW 98 agreed to take so many Black Students into the apprenticeship program in exchange for ALL Service & Construction work done in the School District of Philadelphia to be union?
Maybe you should also ask Mr. Dougherty’s why his electrical union files more NLRB charges against open shop contractors who employ more minority electricians, while costing them labor attorney fees or back pay fees that puts the contractor out of business, while then the minority worker has no contractor to work for and becomes unemployed.
While you’re at asking questions you should also call the Department of Labor both State & Federal or the City of Philadelphia and ask them why IBEW 98 is not required to give some type of quota's in regards to their apprenticeship program or the roster of members along with a pay scale vs race?
What is there procedure for testing and or quantifying who is worthy of being an IBEW electricians along with requirements and Testing results etc..
Like I stated maybe you can be the match…..


Lol, maybe they all failed on merit. It’s mostly a math test.


Here's what's going to happen to your questions. They'll remain inadequately answered. The unions and Dougherty will state they don't track the number of Black members of their unions so they don't really know. The high school apprentice program was abandoned because there weren't enough qualifying applicants. All the Democrats on City Council are paid for by Dougherty. They tout what they have done to level the playing field and say "We agree that more needs to be done" and nothing more will be done. This is going to be a very nasty, very bloody political fight that has been a long time coming. Of course, maybe Dougherty will end up federal court and have his teeth pulled. That investigation is still pending you know.


Here's the thing. The numbers are obvious: there is an obvious diversity problem in the trades. But what you're ignoring is the lack of awareness in the black community (in Philly at least; I cannot speak to other cities) of how secure/promising a career in the trades can be, or even a basic understanding of how to begin the process of applying for an apprenticeship.

It's easy to blame Johnny Doc because he's incredibly good at what he does and is a recognizable figure in the city. He's forced to be the bad guy and take all the blame for the lack of minorities in the trades, when in reality it's a much larger problem and very little of it is within his control.

Apprenticeships are difficult and demanding. Many minorities in lower income areas do not have the means to make it to the training halls (which is an entire argument in and of itself to improve the transportation infrastructure in the city) and therefore cannot make it through the grueling program.

The problem lies in the number of minorities that actually apply. Plain and simple. Because if you did your research, you'd see that the trades do everything they can do help women and people of color to be successful in the apprenticeships - they know they have an image problem and right now it is somewhat beyond their control.


It is not uncommon to find building trade members listed as board members on many if not all authorities, agencies, etc


The union power structures produce sociopaths, just the perfect people to interfere with and control our lives. back injury from fall


When a city like philly has mot had a democrat mayor in over 79 years ...its those corrupt conservatives on WURD that destroyed this once great ciry!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.