A few days ago, Matthew Pestronk, one of the two principals of the development company Post Brothers, called to tell us that almost every day there are men with videocameras outside of Rittenhouse Hill, one of the Post Brothers’ many developments. He claimed the men are members of IBEW Local 98, the electricians’ union. “They’re taping female residents coming in and out of our properties and making them very uncomfortable,” he said. “What does that have to do with anything?”
When Pestronk said, “with anything,” he was referring to the fight the Post Brothers and dozens of the city’s unions are engaged in over the company’s decision to employ non-union labor on their projects. The antagonism sparked at the Goldtex apartment building site at 12th and Wood, which became the locus of an ugly battle that got extensive media coverage due to the unions’ especially aggressive tactics. Now that the bulk of the construction on the Goldtex building has ended, the unions have descended on the Post Brothers’ other properties, such as Presidential City Apartments and Rittenhouse Hill.
In order to substantiate his claim yesterday, Pestronk sent us four photos of people he said were Local 98 members using videocameras to film residents as they entered and left the buildingWe called Local 98′s headquarters to speak with its president, John Dougherty, and had our call returned by Frank Keel. We asked Keel to verify there was a protest going on at Rittenhouse Hill, which he did: “IBEW Local 98 is protesting that apartment project. We are in the process of putting up lawn signs, which is our right. The signs are put up every morning and taken down at the end of the day.”
We asked what the Local’s complaint is with Rittenhouse Hill. “The complaint,” said Keel, “is that Post Brothers, with the use of unqualified workers, are basically cheating the system and not paying the established wages and standards for this region.”
Were the men videotaping residents Local 98 members? “That I couldn’t answer,” Keel said. “I don’t know if that’s our guys. That doesn’t sound like something our guys would do.” But he agreed to look at the photos to check.
Shortly after examining them, Keel sent this official response via email:
Our members ran video cameras for one day and one day only at the Rittenhouse site. The purpose was to film as many of the Post Brothers’ construction workers as possible in an attempt to identify which worker had been stealing our legal and lawfully placed signs. It’s not the first time they’ve stolen our signs. Everything the Post Brothers are alleging here is a lie meant to divert attention from their shoddy operation and unsafe construction practices. Check their L & I and OSHA violations if you doubt us.
And so it goes on, the pitched battle between the two entities, each moment–to paraphrase Thoreau–like an eternity.