I’m used to seeing the Philadelphia unions’ inflatable rat protests in front of restaurants and other businesses in Center City that have decided to employ non-union labor. But in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art?
On Tuesday, members of the local carpenters union set up the rat in front of the PMA to protest the erection of a temporary outdoor tent for an event this weekend hosted by Villanova’s Devereux Foundation, a 100-year-old non-profit organization that provides behavioral health services to emotionally troubled teens and adults.
Yes, you read that right. The unions aren’t just protesting big time restaurants and Walnut Street storefronts and 10-story apartment buildings these days. No, not even a temporary tent is immune to their tactics. The temporary tent in question was provided by EventQuip, a rental company based in Lansdale.
By Wednesday, the giant inflatable rat was gone. “Devereux was forced to hire union carpenters to work with us to appease the union,” says EventQuip owner Ed Knight, who points out that his company has done many larger jobs at the PMA before without using union labor.
“My company, we pay a decent wage,” says Knight. “I don’t hire workers with questionable documentation. I hire very employable people. We have a lot of well-trained workers. Just look at the work on our website. But now, now this non-profit organization that does good work has to go into its pockets to pay union wages.”
Yesterday, I asked Knight if the union carpenters were on site setting up the tent. “Well, they’re trying,” he chuckled. “They’ll be with us for two days, for set up and for removal. All of this extortion is for two days’ work. My company works with a lot of organizations who come into the city and run into problems like this, and they say they’re never coming back.”
Carpenters union leader Ed Coryell did not immediately return a call seeking comment. And yes, in case you’re wondering, this is the same carpenters union that cost the city an important multi-million dollar convention because they wouldn’t allow exhibitors to wield battery-powered screwdrivers.
PHOTOS: Olivia Murawski