Morning Headlines: Ferrick and Gillespie Get Scrappy Over Unions on “Radio Times”

For the latest on our South Philly rowhome collapse news, go here. Meanwhile, yesterday got a little spicy between Axis Philly’s Tom Ferrick and the building trade unions–in particular on Marty Moss-Coane’s WHYY show Radio Times. The two men faced off on the question of a union monopoly after Ferrick penned a rather strong editorial titled “Organized Labor and Philly’s democratic leadership are one and the same.”

For longtime political watchers in Philadelphia, this is not exactly news. But Ferrick cites two examples of recent vintage that he finds especially disturbing, thus prompting, in part, his appearance on 91FM.

The show was certainly one of Moss-Coane’s more explosive, kind of like Terri Gross’ infamous interview with Gene Simmons. Pat Gillespie, spokesperson for the building trade unions–representing about 42 of the unions–set his own turn early by shouting, “Yo!” into the mic when introduced. As Ferrick tried to explain how it is that the unions exert force on city construction contracts for new building projects–office buildings, in particular–Gillespie interrupted with ad hominem attacks, talking points and an impressive lack of facts.

Ferrick kept laughing with disbelief, which might have been a bit antagonistic, sending Gillespie further afield in defense mode. There was much talk of the hardship of working for $100 per hour and then ending up with a small pension. A caller phoned into the show to defend bricklayers, saying they had tough jobs because of those small wages and the fact that they had to be at work at 7 a.m. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

As for minority and female participation, Ferrick presented numbers he derived from analysis of various work sites and Gillespie called the numbers “nonsense.” When asked to counter with numbers of his own, Gillespie said no because “it’s our business.” He also asked what was so bad about providing fair wages and standards for a workforce of suburban white men. Ferrick said nothing, but that the opportunity for a living wage should be accessible to all.

On the matter of Goldtex, Gillespie defended the tactics the unions employed and accused Post Bros. of employing undocumented builders. Ferrick did not contradict that assessment, saying, rather, that a bad economy made such strategies seem necessary to some developers.

Gillespie was reluctant to go to break, so Moss-Coane had her work cut out for her. She acquitted herself well. The same can’t be said for Gillespie, who was unable to answer questions with specificity or logistical sophistication. Ferrick was giggly but cogent and sane. For more on the show, click here.

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