Ironworkers’ Dougherty Goes on Trial

Feds say workers pressured to join union "goon squad."

Joseph Dougherty, former head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Ironworkers union, went on trial in federal court Monday on racketeering charges alleging the union used violence and intimidation to pressure non-union work projects into using union labor.

Dougherty is the only one of a dozen union members indicted last year to face trial on the charges; the other 11 pleaded guilty in recent weeks and months.

Newsworks reports on opening statements by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Livermore, who promised to provide wiretaps from up to 50 calls as part of the government’s case. He said Dougherty ruled the union with an “iron fist”:

The FBI reportedly obtained evidence, dating back to 2010, of union members’ involvement in acts of arson or extortion on 25 different job sites.

The prosecution also said Dougherty took advantage of working-class ironworkers who wanted to move up the ranks.

“Ironworkers who joined goon squads got the best jobs and promotions,” said Livermore. “Union members faced a stark choice: Join the goon squad or get in the back of the line for a job.”

AP offers the defense:

“In Philadelphia, for decades and decades and decades, this town has been a strong and proud union town,” defense lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr. told jurors.

He said his client didn’t invent “night work” and shouldn’t be held responsible for his co-defendants’ crimes.

The trial is expected to last at least a week.