PARTS AND LABOR: Our Imperfect Unions

Inflatable_Rat.jpgPW: It doesn’t take long fireside chats with local business owners and contractors to hear horror stories about the ramifications of hiring nonunion workers in Philadelphia: picketing campaigns that stretch endlessly through the seasons; physical intimidation; glue finding its way into door locks, electrical wiring neatly uninstalled just in time for opening day. […] Dealing with union aggression has become an occupational hazard of opening up a restaurant in Center City. Off the top, Brauhaus Schmitz, Marc Vetri’s Amis, Devil’s Alley, Smokin’ Betty’s and Barbuzzo are just a few recent examples of restaurants that drew protests for not hiring all union. Down in South Philly, the electrician’s union trotted out their 14-foot buck-toothed blow-up rat for Bistro la Minette. Most of these are small-business enterprises. Stories get crazier as the jobs get bigger. Perhaps the most notorious one, the only-in-Philly parable told with the same tone as the old “Philly pelted Santa Claus with snowballs” trope (except this one’s true) went down in 2006 during construction of the Comcast Center. In an effort to “green” the building and obtain LEED certification, architects incorporated waterless urinals. But the plumber’s union, Local 690, protested the plan—waterless urinals use less pipes, which means less work for plumbers. The compromise? The Comcast Center installed the waterless toilets. But they also got a complete network of pipes that aren’t connected to anything “in case” the building wants to convert back to old-style toilets: a 975-foot tall monument to the power of union muscle in Philadelphia. MORE

RELATED: The labor movement [is] hamstrung by organizational forms and an ideology that takes a narrow approach to union goals, fails to recognize how class conflict is an inescapable fact of capitalist life and avoids any thought of how society might move beyond capitalism. MORE

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