New Ironworkers leader vows to restore union's image

ASSOCIATED PRESS New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says the 10 union members damaged all ironworkers' reputations.
ASSOCIATED PRESS New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says the 10 union members damaged all ironworkers' reputations.
Posted: February 27, 2014

THE NEW LEADER of Ironworkers Local Union 401 said yesterday that he will head the Philadelphia group for at least 18 months, during which he will seek to "restore the integrity of the union."

New Jersey state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, 54, the general vice president for the Iron Workers International, the parent organization, said he took over the local's operations as its administrator on Friday.

"My job is to get the union running," he said. "The allegations are allegations. I'm not going to cast judgment with regard to anybody and their allegation."

On Feb. 18, federal authorities arrested 10 members of the local union, including its leadership - business manager Joseph Dougherty, 72, of Bustleton, who was the local's longtime leader, and its four business agents, including Edward Sweeney, 55, of Northeast Philadelphia. The Sweeneys are not related.

The 10 were accused of acts of violence to force contractors to hire union ironworkers.

Stephen Sweeney said he spoke to a lot of union members who were "heartbroken" by the allegations. "It is not the norm, it is not the culture," he said. "If what was said is true, it's sickening."

The local union has about 1,000 members and about 400 retirees, he said. "When you look at the Philadelphia skyline, that was the ironworkers who built that. Their reputation was damaged."

After the local union emerges "out of supervision"- as the oversight by the international is called - the union members again will elect a business manager, Sweeney said.


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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