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.”