The Enigma of Local 98

As many people know, Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of poverty of a major city in the country.  Many low income people struggle to just put food on the table.  I have been on the side of the aisle in which I am wondering where resources are coming from in order to feed my family.  It is why I often wonder at the power of some of our local labor unions.  One in particular is Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Unions.  The length and breadth of their financial largesse is astounding.

I first became aware of the power of this union when I was working in the housing arena.  Davis Bacon regulations were intended to have prevailing wages be paid by developers/contractors on publicly funded projects.  Being union was not a requirement if a contractor could pay the wage.  Laborers would get paid approximately $19.00 an hour plus benefits.  On the high end of the scale, Plumbers would get paid approximately $39.00 plus benefits.  The benefits are the key to the stranglehold that Local 98, and other members of the AFL-CIO, have on politics and those in elective office.

I monitored the construction of the Hyatt Regency on Columbus Boulevard.  Part of the funding for that project came from the benefits fund of Local 98.  In a sense, they are the part owners of this hotel.  They have invested in other construction projects also.  In addition, they have heavily invested in the political arena.  I wonder what caused the union to go in this direction.  I know that the Carpenters union invested in the reelection effort on former mayor Michael Nutter.  Afterwards, he never seemed to see the disparities of the makeup of union brotherhood.  The Mayor's Advisory Commission on Construction Industry Diversity never issued a single report after it was formed.

John Dougherty has propelled Local 98 into the stratosphere when it comes to influencing public officials.  He ticked off the fact that Brendan Boyle, Kevin Dougherty and James Kenney all benefited from the financial backing of the union.  Bobby Henon became the majority leader of City Council after one term.  Does anyone wonder why his ascension came so quickly.  It seems like current Councilman Curtis Jones should have been in position.  Reelection funding looms large in the mind of incumbents.  Not being able to access the cash cow of Local 98 affected the voting for the Majority Leader position.
Image result for local 98
The recent FBI investigation of Local 98 also revealed the tremendous salaries of the leadership in this entity.  Johnny Dc makes almost $265,000.00.  That is more than the Police Commissioner and the Mayor.  It is more than some CEO's of major corporations make.  His assistants, VP's and Business Agents, make over $100,000.00.  They bring the sexy back to blue collar work.  Why do they feel the need to influence political elections?  Are they not independently wealthy?  The Comcast Center will be built with union labor.  Every other large scale project on Temple or Penn's project will have a project labor agreement.  The small non-union contractor has no chance on publicly funded project.  Even PHA has succumbed to the power of the unions.

Their apparent power is why I fail to realize why they couldn't just stay in the construction lane.  I attended an Eagles game and Dougherty Electric has trucks all over the private parking area.  Johnny Doc published a commercial at the Wells Fargo in advance of the DNC.  Life was really good.  The FBI must have been watching the whole time.  I know the investigation might put a crimp in the political spending.  In no way will it diminish the economic powerhouse that Local 98 has become.  Only time will tell if the Political Kingmaker remains unscathed.

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