This Is What Your City Councilperson Has to Say About the Arson at the Quaker Meetinghouse Site

And we’re sure that these tens of thousands in campaign contributions has absolutely nothing to do with it.

In a recent Philly Post column, Liz Spikol decried both the controversial union tactics used against non-union workers at the Goldtex construction site at 12th and Wood, and the suspected arson at the Quaker meetinghouse site in Chestnut Hill, which a police lieutenant told the Inquirer he “absolutely” thinks was a “union issue.” Asked Spikol, “Is there any elected Democratic politician in this city willing to stand up to unions?”

We decided to make Spikol’s plea more personal, and called every member of the City Council to ask what they thought about the incident in Chestnut Hill and about union tactics in general. Most of them ignored repeated requests for comment.

Below their responses (or often, lack thereof), we’ve noted recent campaign contributions from building trades unions and similar labor groups. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a snapshot of contributions from the groups that far and away provide some of the heftiest donations to the Council each year.

Bill Greenlee

“Look, I think unions have the right to protest peacefully when they think there’s things not being done right and workers not being treated right. But of course any kind of violence should not be tolerated. Unions provide good paying jobs and benefits to people and have done so for a long time. Workers of all kinds would not have the benefits they have now if not for the unions.”

2011 Contributions:
I.B.E.W. Local 98:  $10,600
Carpenters PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $10,000
I.B.E.W. Local 98 Committee on Political Education (COPE): $5,000

Jim Kenney

“The relationship between labor and business is between them. Fighting between unions and businesses has gone on since the beginning of unions. But everyone needs to follow the law, and there are processes in place for that. If anyone is stupid enough or reckless enough to set something on fire, they should be prosecuted, and I would urge the DA or FBI to investigate. But sometimes, you wonder whether the other side does things to stir the pot. What Council can do is provide an environment where the tax rates are such and the environment in the city is such where people want to develop. Whether they develop union or non-union is up to them.”

2011 Contributions:
Carpenters PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $10,000
Laborers District Council PAC: $7,500
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $5,000

Cindy Bass

“I’m not going to assume that someone is responsible for a crime. We just can’t do that. We can’t do that as legislators. I don’t think it’s a responsible thing for me to come out and say that an individual or group is responsible. But I encourage the police to get the evidence. … If we want to avoid having those labor disputes and things happening in the community, it will be my interest to make sure we bring all the parties to the table, to make sure we have labor at the table [and] developers at the table.”

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council PAC: $10,600
Carpenter’s PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $5,000
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $5,000

Mark Squilla

“First of all, if anybody commits a crime or arson, any degree, they should be prosecuted by the authorities, no matter who it is. I don’t think it should matter whether it was a union member or not. … It’s kind of hard to comment on something when you don’t know the facts. … At the end of the day, we can’t tell contractors how they choose certain individuals. If you want council members to get involved in negotiations [with contractors], that’s going in the wrong direction.”

2011 Contributions:
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $10,600
I.B.E.W. Local 351 PA PAC Fund: $10,000
Plumbers Local 690 PAC: $5,500

Wilson Goode Jr.

“Did you read the last article in Philadelphia magazine in which I was misquoted? [We think he may be talking about this.] Read that quote of mine that I didn’t make and then get back to me. … In the course of approving the Convention Center expansion, City Council considered not using union labor, and that was not supported by Philadelphia magazine [we’re not quite sure what he’s referring to] or other media outlets. When the issue was raised about whether every major project needed to be a union shop, no media outlet spoke up. … I have completed my comments.”

2010 Contributions:
Laborers District Council: $10,000
I.B.E.W. Local 98: $1,000

Dennis O’Brien

“I don’t believe that anybody’s above the law, so if they commit arson or murder, it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to be prosecuted. But I’ve had some relations with building trades over the years in which they helped me build gymnasiums in neighborhoods. They are supportive of charitable events and kids with disabilities. I’ve heard stories about violence, but I can’t really say what happened. It’s all anecdotal. I’ve heard that unions are brutal, but not one person has ever come to me saying I should do something about it. I went over to the 12th and Wood site because a union official told me he was afraid someone was going to get killed. I witnessed the Latin Kings from New York there as part of the developer’s enforcement team. If a developer knows people like the Pagans and Latin Kings and has them on speed dial, why do I want that developer in my city? That’s challenging to me. Everybody’s got to play by the rules, and the rules are what they are.”

2011 Contributions:
I.B.E.W. Local 351 Pennsylvania PAC Fund: $10,000
Steamfitters Local 420 PAC: $7,500
Carpenter’s PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $5,000

Darrell Clarke

Declined to comment through spokesperson.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council PAC: $10,600
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $10,000
I.U.P.A.T. District Council 21: $2,500

Kenyatta Johnson

Declined to comment through spokesperson.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council PAC: $10,600
Carpenter’s PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $5,000
Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 19: $1,500

Marian Tasco

Declined to comment through spokesperson.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council: $10,600
Carpenter’s PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $10,000

Jannie Blackwell

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
I.B.E.W. Local 98: $10,600
Laborers District Council PAC: $7,500

Maria Quinones-Sanchez

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council: $10,000
Plumbers Union Local 690 Election PAC: $2,000

Brian O’Neill

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
Carpenters PAC of Philadelphia & Vicinity: $9,6000
I.U.P.A.T. DC 21: $5,500
Steamfitters Local Union 420: $4,500

Curtis Jones

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council: $7,000
Laborers District Council PAC: $2,000
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $5,000

Bobby Henon

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 PAC: $10,600
Plumbers Local 620: $10,600
I.U.P.A.T. DC 21: $10,6000

Bill Green

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
I.B.E.W. Local 351 Pennsylvania PAC Fund: $10,000
I.B.E.W. Local 98 COPE: $10,000
Carpenter’s PAC of Philadelphia and Vicinity: $7,000

Blondell Reynolds Brown

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
Laborers District Council: $7,500
Laborers District Council PAC: $5,000
Plumbers Local 21 PAC: $1,000

David Oh

Did not respond to request for comment.

2011 Contributions:
I.U.P.A.T. DC 21 PAC: $2,500

Additional reporting by Victor Fiorillo.

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