National Review Calls Philly “Goon City” in Article on Labor Unions

National Review is a conservative publication that’s never had much use for unions. Still, the magazine’s new story about the “intimidation, harassment, vandalism, violence—and impunity” of Philadelphia unions probably won’t help our fair city attract new construction or other kinds of employment. It’s titled “Goon City” and goes downhill from there:

A study by the National Right to Work Committee examined news reports and found that, from 1975 to 2009, there were 143 incidents of union violence in the city of Philadelphia reported in the press. It’s a grim roster that includes an unsuccessful murder attempt; a janitor’s losing an eye during a protest; the firebombing of company property; countless tires slashed; and business owners’ being threatened with a gun and with knives.

Moreover, NRTWC research suggests that for every reported instance of union troublemaking, at least ten similar incidents never make the newspapers. If those estimates are right, Philadelphia has seen an average of 45 incidents of union violence each year for nearly four decades.

Now, the National Right to Work Committee has its own (not necessarily worker-friendly)  agenda to push here, so it’s worth asking the audience: Does 45 incidents of union violence each year sound right to you? An average of nearly one a week over the last 40 years? Or is the committee’s estimate on the high side?

Pat Gillespie, business manager of the Greater Philadelphia Building Trades Council, kind of/kind of doesn’t disavow the reputation the city’s unions have earned:

“One person’s harassment is another person’s free-speech exercise,” he says. “Life is tough in Philadelphia, as it is in any urban area. Someone shot me from a car one time. People who tippy-toe around the edges of the city and then come in for a foray to try to do something against the standards that have been established get their feelings hurt when people call them a bastard, when people call them out for what they are. To say that we’re more expressive than any other area — maybe we do it a little louder, but the point’s the same. You have to protect what’s yours and preserve the standards that have been established for our area. ”

The magazine says “Goon City” is the first in a three-part series. Here’s a link to the second part, which covers the “MilkBoy owners’ ten-month battle with the carpenters’ union over the construction of the bar and music venue … ” and quotes an unnamed “Philadelphia business owner”:

“It’s intimidation, harassment,” he says. Unions in Philadelphia do “anything and everything to give a developer or owner as much harassment as possible until they end up hiring a union worker. . . . The notion that it’s just individual members is sort of absurd. You’re dealing with something that has to be collaborative.”

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • donny1020

    Why not report the real story about the contractor that MilkBoy used who only employed undocumented workers who he paid below minimum wage , some workers were not paid at all.

    There are business owners who are in news papers daily for cheating workers, cheating customers, cheating the government, bribing public officials, padding contracts, killing and maiming workers, etc. Where is the outrage against business owners. Most of these owners are members of the Chamber of Commerace, why not investigate the Chamber? Why hasn’t the Chamber of Commerce apologized for all the pain, suffering, killing, and maiming their members have done to workers in the name of profits over the years? How much bribe money does the Chamber of Commerce and their members put into the political system every day/ Clearly the Chamber of Commerace controls each and every member of their organisation.

    These business owners say that Unions are over but when two workers get together and try to do something for themselves these businessmen say that Unions are to powerful.

    The only lazy union members I see are Joel Mathis who is too lazy to actually report a real story rather he just puts together an article by taking paragraphs out of other articles and the lazy government employees that can’t be bothered with arresting criminal business owners who are screwing over the working man!

  • Natalie

    I work on a college campus that because of unions, we cannot set up even one table ourselves. We have to pay $30 (more if its on a night or weekend) to a union worker to spend less than 5 minutes to set it up. So instead of spending our shrinking budget on education, we are forced to pay these ridiculous costs, which go up every year even though our budgets get smaller and I’m not getting paid any more.