John Dougherty gets an assistant at union council

John Dougherty, business manager at the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, will likely get a second in command when the group’s executive board meets July 19.

The current president, Wayne Miller, who also heads Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, will likely step into a more responsible position as assistant business manager, a new position under Dougherty, according to several sources. Miller’s position will be likely filled by Ryan Boyer, who leads the Laborers’ District Council in Philadelphia.

In the building trades, business manager outranks president.

The move comes at a challenging time for Dougherty. His wife, Cecilia, is gravely ill and has been hospitalized for months. And Dougherty, who also leads Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, faces a wide-ranging federal probe into his activities with the union.

But, said Dougherty spokesman Frank Keel, the decision to add an assistant business manager has much to do with the illness of Dougherty’s wife — he has been spending hours at the hospital — and nothing to do with any federal probes. Miller lives in Northeast Philadelphia, near the building trade council’s office, and can easily handle day-to-day issues, Keel said.

Keel said Dougherty proposed the restructuring in part “to bring diversity to the leadership of the building trades.” Building trades have been criticized for not being diverse in proportion to the region’s population.

Boyer is African American and leads a council of locals of one of the region’s largest building trades, the Laborers International Union of North America. In Philadelphia, Local 332 is primarily African American. For years, its business manager, Sam Staten Sr., had held the president’s position on the council. Staten, 80, died April 26, and   his son son, Sam Jr., now leads that local.

“It’s important that John ran unopposed and was unanimously elected,” Keel said. “He has the full support of the membership, and any inference to the contrary is patently false. [The changes] have nothing to do with all the problems. Anybody who is spinning anything other than what I said is a liar.”

Boyer said the same. “I fully expect John to be exonerated,” he said, adding that there are “zero contingency plans” for any alternate outcome.

Dougherty took over the leadership of the council on Dec. 1, 2015, after Patrick Gillespie, the council’s former leader, announced his retirement and shepherded Dougherty into the top spot. A staffer, Bernard Griggs, was also recommended for nomination, but his candidacy never materialized. Griggs remains on the council’s staff.

Dougherty, also known as “Johnny Doc,” was reelected June 7, along with his entire slate, which included Miller and Patrick Eiding, who heads the Philadephia AFL-CIO. Dougherty’s supporters credit him with creating a hassle-free labor situation at the Democratic National Convention last summer and with raising the profile of the city’s construction workers. Miller did not return several calls for comment.