The first thing I thought of when I heard about the indictment against Electricians Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty was that he was just another fraud who had washed the blue out of his collar a long time ago.
I don’t have an opinion on his guilt or innocence, at least not yet. He may very well have committed the crimes that the feds are accusing him of — embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the loyalty of strangers and ensure the comfort of friends.
The indictment quotes him: “I got a different world than most people ever exist in.” He’s accused of spending union funds on lunches at the Palm, big screen TVs, and gifts for family and friends. As of now, these are just accusations.
Dougherty has a right to his day in court, and I’m sure he will fight all 116 counts in the indictment. I’m almost hoping he gives us a good show and gives the government a worthy opponent.
But I’m not exactly weeping over Dougherty’s current predicament.
There is no escaping the fact that Dougherty has been reveling in his exalted status for decades. I’m not sure we’ve ever met — although a few years ago, I did enjoy some hoagies he generously left at the WPHT studios, where I do a weekly radio show. (That’s not part of the indictment, by the way.) Dougherty probably has 99 percent of the People Who Count in Philly on speed dial, including Mayor Jim Kenney (another powerful man who pretends to be blue collar).
In my eyes, he’s already proved himself guilty of another crime. He betrayed his background while still benefiting off of lip service to it. Dougherty’s shtick of trying to maintain the façade of proletariat grit — that hardcore Philly accent, the colorful nickname — has grown old.
I can’t stand people who pretend to be what they’re not, especially if they do it to enrich themselves at the expense of others. I have a lot more respect for the Wall Street honcho who so obviously doesn’t give a damn about the people he’s hurting than I do for the labor leader who pretends to sympathize with the poor schmuck on the corner, while flaunting his wealth and supposed superiority over that same schmuck.
My dad was the epitome of a blue-collar guy. Born in West Philly. An altar boy at St. Gregory’s. Smoked cigarettes at the age of 13. Got a tattoo as a teenager (which he tried to get rid of as a 30-year-old, but that’s another story). Enlisted in the Army at 18. Drank Schmidt’s and Rolling Rock. Loved the Bristol Stomp by the Dovells, the Locomotion by Little Eva and anything by Tommy Edwards.
A blue-collar guy does not pretend to be what he isn’t.
Again, Dougherty deserves his day, his week, and his many months in court, and I expect him to defend himself as fiercely as he’s clung to power.
But let’s end this charade about Johnny, the Man of the People.