'It Might Be Appropriate to Wonder How Anything Gets Built in Philadelphia'

Late last year, Philadelphia Magazine published a long, but always compelling account of how two young developers from Virginia and their employees, starting in early 2012, have been subjected to ugly Big Labor threats, sabotage and violence simply for refusing to kowtow to construction union bosses’ demands that they operate union-only in the City of Brotherly Love.  Developers and brothers Michael and Matthew Pestronk have proven to be far more tenacious than the Philadelphia union hierarchy expected, but whether they will continue to be able to carry out commercial construction projects in the city with the help of union-free employees remains an open question.  See the link below to read the whole story.

All of the videos are voyeuristic—surveillance-quality film of a construction site. The worst ones, shot from three different angles on a sunny day in July 2012, involve the fence:

On the screen we see an engineering contractor who wants to enter the controversial Goldtex construction site at 12th and Wood streets, only to find his path blocked by eight union men. With mincing steps, the non-union contractor—a middle-aged man in a blue short-sleeved shirt—tries to sneak in behind them, sidling through a narrow gap between a temporary chain-link fence and a stone wall. But the union men spot him, move toward the fence, and start to lean against it. Then we see four of them take turns pushing—using the fence like a microscope slide to fix the contractor against the wall. In one of the videos, you can hear the man start to cry out, his voice tremulous as he’s crushed. Finally, he slumps to the ground.

The most troubling part, though, isn’t the sight of the men trapping the contractor; it’s the brief glimpse of one of the protesters grinning as the contractor wails. And the way the union guys stroll casually away from the scene when their victim collapses.