Longtime union power broker John Dougherty may already be in hot water after the FBI raided his home over the summer in an investigation of his union’s political fundraising activities.
Now he’ll likely be summoned to federal court to deal with a lawsuit accusing him of using a racial slur before breaking a non-union construction worker’s nose.
“We don’t want n-----s here,” the lawsuit claims Dougherty said to plaintiff Joshua Keesee, before throwing a right hook that broke the man’s nose. Keesee is Native American.
Dougherty, business manager for IBEW local 98 of the electricians’ union, claimed self-defense in his role in the Jan, 21 fight at a construction site at Third and Reed streets.
He told PhillyVoice.com that Keesee was acting suspiciously around union members’ cars, threatened Dougherty’s family and threw the first punch.
But Keesee’s suit alleges that the tensions stemmed from a series of protests staged by the electricians union at the site because the developer, MCON, had hired non-union workers.
Keesee started working there in August 2015. In court papers, he said he was approached in January and intimidated by numerous union members, including Dougherty, over a union sticker on his van, which he claims was already on the van when he bought it.
The lawsuit states that Keesee argued with Dougherty and other union workers after giving them permission to scrape the sticker off with a knife, and that “Keesee laughed” as one of the men “struggled to remove the sticker.”
“Keesee’s laughter infuriated an already angered Dougherty,” the lawsuit stated, “who raised his voice to Keesee and told him that non-union workers were not welcome in South Philadelphia and that ‘we don’t want n-----s here.’”
The suit claims a war of words followed. It states that Keesee laughed and called Dougherty and other union workers “cowards.”
Dougherty then told three other workers, “Do what you want to him,” before stepping forward and punching Keesee twice in the face, breaking his nose, according to the suit.
Keesee claims he was struck 10 times as he fled, then watched Dougherty introduce himself to a random bystander, and tell the person that he couldn’t believe he got in a fight before nine in the morning.
As Keesee claims that as he continued to call the men cowards, Dougherty shouted “I’ll fight you myself.” He claims Dougherty and the three workers cornered him and attacked him again.
Despite the injuries, Keesee returned to work the next day at the construction site, but after seeing 15 individuals he believed were affiliated with Local 98 waiting for him, “he concluded he had no choice but to cease work.”
The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court, but IBEW Local 98 said they hadn’t been served with the suit as of Tuesday evening.
“We still have not been served yet, so we can’t comment,” spokesman Frank Keel said.
Keel previously told the Inquirer, "All you need to know about the motive of the lawsuit is that the press received it before we did.”
The suit, filed on behalf of MCON and Keesee, demands unspecified damages from Dougherty, Local 98, and the three union members who were with Dougherty, Christopher Owen, Thomas Rodriguez and Niko Rodriguez.