Joseph Dougherty, the business agent and financial secretary of Ironworkers Union Local 401, AFL-CIO, was convicted in January of numerous racketeering and violence-related offenses related to his union’s “goon squads,” which union bosses called the THUGs (apparently with no sense of irony). This week, he learned his fate. Federal Judge Michael Baylson sentenced Dougherty to nineteen years and two months in federal prison. (Dougherty already lost his $190,000-plus salary.)
In a way, Dougherty was unlucky: If his union had engaged in different forms of threats and violence, the Feds wouldn’t have been able to touch him. Under a Supreme Court case called U.S. v. Enmons, unions are exempt from prosecution under the Hobbs Act for certain violent acts. (There have been calls to close this loophole, including the Employee Rights Act.)
More interesting than Dougherty’s nearly two-decade sentence is the reaction of his (erstwhile) fellow Philadelphia labor bigwigs. Supporters of Dougherty protested outside the courtroom where he was sentenced, demanding, “Free Joe Doc” and chanting, “It ain’t over yet, Doc!” And while the local labor council and building trades council heads may have avoided that tawdry spectacle, they were extremely sparing in their criticism of Dougherty’s crimes. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
Dougherty, former chief of Ironworkers Local 401, is a longtime friend of [Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO President Pat] Eiding’s, and Eiding says he isn’t convinced Dougherty is anywhere close to being a racketeer, despite a federal jury’s verdict to the contrary. […] “Joe’s a good friend,” said Eiding, 74.
Eiding may have spared Dougherty rhetorical condemnation for a series of offenses related to what the Inquirer called a “years-long campaign of sabotage, arson, and intimidation to keep members of his Ironworkers Local 401 employed,” but others in Philadelphia’s labor community rushed to defend the THUG leader. James Moran, who led a labor-funded nonprofit, engaged in a bit of “just asking questions” conspiracy-mongering as he planned the pro-Dougherty rally:
“What better way to attack unions than to come to one of the most strongly union towns in the country and go after one of the toughest unions in the town?” Moran said.
In reality, Dougherty was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers for systematic violence and intimidation committed by the union he led.