Uncovering Union Violence

by on January 15, 2013 at 7:30 am in Economics, Political Science | Permalink

Union violence against non-unionized workers and their employers is an under-reported story. Everyone knows it happens but they look the other way. It’s hard to look the other way, however, when the violence and vandalism is videotaped and put on the web–that’s what two Philadelphia developers did and the result is making waves far beyond the workplace.

Since the first videos went up in spring, the tide of public sentiment has turned, and the Pestronks won a court order restricting the picketers’ behavior. But in coming years, the Goldtex battle and the techniques employed there may be seen in grander, historical terms: as the moment that started the unraveling of Building Trades’ vast economic and political power, and perhaps of Philadelphia’s entire power structure.

The above-market wages, featherbedding and absurd work rules make low-cost development difficult:

…According to Gillen, the economics of our Trades unions hinder middle-income developments and force developers toward high-end luxury residences. Yet Building Trades flaunts its power with labyrinthine work rules and outrageous demands. Most famously, the Comcast tower was equipped with two sets of pipes—one “green” and functional, the other old-fashioned and disconnected—to feed the union beast. But the Trades are an everyday drag on the local economy. Union plumbers must call in the electricians if a single wire needs to be moved.

As is usual, in these situations, the rents do not go the workers alone but instead are partially distributed to inside developers who accede because they get monopoly power:

…The Pestronks say they’ve been told by people within the development community that certain established builders get better labor rates than they were offered. Multiple sources inside Philadelphia’s development community say that information is correct. “It isn’t like the unions ever work for market rate,” says one developer, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from the Trades. “But instead of coming in 40 or even 50 percent over market, they’ll come in at 20 percent. Maybe throw in some government subsidy, and it’s just enough to get the deal done.”

The arrangement has dark ramifications for the city’s economy. “The issue,” says one elected official, who also asked for anonymity, “is that a younger developer or an out-of-town developer gets a vastly different price than someone who has a relationship with the unions. There is a kind of old-boy ne­twork involved. And there is an element of protectionism to it. The established developers complain about the unions. But they cut deals with them and enjoy the fact that the unions reduce any competition they might face.”

The politicians also get their share of the cut:

..Inquirer reporter Bob Warner has published a series of stories quantifying the amount of money Johnny “Doc” Dougherty donates to local politicians. Dougherty, the boss of Local 98, annually funnels $2 million into state and city races, circumventing campaign contribution limits by funding political action committees that lavish his favored candidates with cash. The Trades have it in their power to acquire huge stakes in any city politician. A review of 2011 political campaign filings shows City Council representatives Bill Green, Mark Squilla and Bobby Henon each received roughly 20 to 25 percent of their funding from Trades-related sources.

Read the whole excellent piece. Hat tip to EconJeff who notes that the article is flawed only by a bit of lazy history suggesting that the 40 hour work week and good working conditions are primarily due to unions (there is also a bit of weak economics in a suggestion that the wages of builders and city rents should be closely related). Still it’s a very astute article that connects the dots in the iron triangle.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 8:17 am

What are the returns to unionization? Are they zero until everyone complies? Is it just stupidity causing the violence, or is it ‘rational’? Would strategies other than general strikes increase marginal returns? I read one economist claim that German unions provide (monopolize?) skills training and add value that way. Maybe we are just a more violent society.

Howl January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

Sad to say, but violence to get one’s way very often is effective. If it is unreported and criminal statutes go unenforced–that is, if the locality has allowed it to become ‘the way things are done’–violence can be grimly rational indeed.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 11:36 am

Well, they asked that engineering contractor how he felt about crossing the picket line and he said “quite frankly, I was on the fence about it.”

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

The police asked the engineering contractor how he felt being pressed against the wall with the chain link fence. He said “well, to be honest, it was quite straining.”

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The police asked the engineering contractor why, after being squeezed, he tried to again bypass the fence. He said “well, discretion is the better part of valor, but after the first incident I was instantly galvanized.”

Tom January 15, 2013 at 8:30 am

I know this post will make the GMU Economics big donors happy, but this is bunk. Union money is dwarfed by corporate money.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

Are you sure?

http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/blio.php

“An important caveat must be added to these figures: “business” contributions from individuals are based on the donor’s occupation/employer. Since nearly everyone works for someone, and since union affiliation is not listed on FEC reports, totals for business are somewhat overstated, while labor is understated. Still, the base of large individual donors is predominantly made up of business executives and professionals. Contributions under $200 are not included in these numbers, as they are not itemized.”

It’s also possible that for someone like me, government corrupted by either corporations or by labor unions is not a choice.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

Corporate money makes headlines every day. Nice to read something different once in a while.

dan1111 January 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

This just in: all problems except the absolute biggest one are “bunk”.

Well, I suppose that’s a load off my mind.

Jeff January 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Assaulting a nonunion worker is bunk? Seriously?

My guess is that you will only hear these stories coming from cities like Philly. This is highly unlikely to happen in the South, too many people are armed and won’t put up with union bullying tactics.

GiT January 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm

What unions in the South?

Susan January 16, 2013 at 1:23 am

Good point. I really wish there were unions. I have worked on both sides and as a worker bee, there is a much larger advantage to being part of a union. There is much more non-sense involved with “right to work states” that one could believe. It is back to the Lords and Surfs. When industrialization age ensued, people got it right when unions were formed. Although there was much more abuse of the worker bee back then, it is because of unions that worker bees began to get some respect, better working conditions and wages. There was a standard by which people had to conduct themselves which in my experience produced a stronger work force and better trustworthy and admirable management.

Dan January 16, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Bwahahahaha

Unions have been around since the days of Kings, and they only existed to protect themselves from competitors and extract huge rents from the poor people they supposedly protect.

There is no doubt that Unions are the most corrupt entities in the world, they put the Mafia to shame.

handworn January 16, 2013 at 11:22 am

Try living in Philadelphia, as I do, and see how friendly to the unions you end up. They pretty much control everything. We have a wage tax that makes Philadelphia uncompetitive but which is necessary to fund annual retirement benefit increases for BEW and AFSCME members. We have terrible schools because of the intransigence and selfishness of the teachers’ unions. We have enormous numbers of vacant and derelict houses, and it’s largely thanks to Philadelphia unions, their iron control of the city government, and the parochial attitude they encourage.

Unions are essentially closely held corporations in the business of being pitiable. They’re loathsome.

TGGP January 16, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Eugene Volokh presented some empirics on California campaign spending (open to corporations even before Citizens United) here. A summary by category:
Corporate: $6.85M
Union: $16.6M
Individual: $8M
Indian tribe: $10.75M

prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 8:41 am

‘Union violence against non-unionized workers and their employers is an under-reported story. ‘

Since when? It isn’t as if we all don’t know what the term ‘scab’ means. Or what happens in coal country when picket lines are crossed.

‘flawed only by a bit of lazy history suggesting that the 40 hour work week and good working conditions are primarily due to unions’

Well, I’m sure that employers will be offering 35 hour weeks any day now – unless those nasty unions stop them, of course. Especially considering the history of how the 8 hour work day became normal in the U.S. -

‘In the United States, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the ten-hour day. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organized a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals. Labor movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters, although not unionized, achieved an eight-hour day in 1842.

In 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became a central demand of the Chicago labor movement. The Illinois legislature passed a law in early 1867 granting an eight-hour day but had so many loopholes that it was largely ineffective. A city-wide strike that began on May 1, 1867 shut down the city’s economy for a week before collapsing. On June 25, 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour law for federal employees[5] which was also of limited effectiveness. (On May 19, 1869, Grant signed a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation.[6])

In August 1866, the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, “The first and great necessity of the present to free labour of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved.”

During the 1870s, eight hours became a central demand, especially among labor organizers, with a network of Eight-Hour Leagues which held rallies and parades. A hundred thousand workers in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day in 1872, mostly for building trades workers. In Chicago, Albert Parsons became recording secretary of the Chicago Eight-Hour League in 1878, and was appointed a member of a national eight-hour committee in 1880.

At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

The leadership of the Knights of Labor, under Terence V. Powderly, rejected appeals to join the movement as a whole, but many local Knights assemblies joined the strike call including Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

Oddly, it is seems as if Philadelphia tradesmen (especially the immigrants doing the truly dirty work) have been up to no good for almost as long as the U.S. has existed.

And it is correct to point out that unions are less important than the workers themselves demanding conditions the workers find fair – and striking when those conditions aren’t met is the most effective way to create change. Which I’m sure is what that quip about lazy history actually meant.

Jeremy H. January 15, 2013 at 11:07 am

Yes, unions had been pushing for the 8-hour day for years. But it did not become widespread until the 1910s. Here is the canonical, peer-reviewed study on why this happened:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/2123280

Or a summary here (scroll down to “Causes of the Decline in the Length of the Workweek” near the bottom):

http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us

Also, it seems like bad form to simply “copy and paste” a long section from a Wikipedia article, especially one that is poorly sourced (actually, mostly un-sourced).

Brian Donohue January 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

+1.

MD January 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Two of the factors cited by Whaples are growth in organized labor’s strength and federal and state legislation mandating a reduced work week, which was at least partly the result of labor gaining a political voice. So unions pushed for a shorter work week, and, partly as a result of those efforts, eventually there was a shorter work week.

Jeremy H. January 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Yes, although he assigns those factors relatively little importance. In the city-level analysis (Table 1), the union proxy (strikes) is responsible for 4.2% of the reduction in hours, and state law changes are 1.2%. In the industry-level analysis (Table 2), unions get a little more credit, 8.4% as do state laws with 9.0%, but these are hardly the primary factors.

Futhermore, most economic historians (both economists and historians) agree with the claim that economic growth was the primary reason for the reduction in hours, and they disagree with the claim that unions were the primary reason. See questions 32 and 33 in:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/2123771

MD January 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm

So compared to owners, laborers, even when organized, have very little power, and owners, compared to implacable forces like “economic growth” are also quite powerless.

Emil January 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

First they push for 8-hour work day and then they wonder why they are not being paid more…

vanderleun January 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

You’re not thinking like a thug. First you get the 8-hour day and then you get paid for 24.

Jan January 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

The purpose of this post is to elicit “AAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!”

Don’t worry, Alex, can’t you see that you’re winning this one?

Should unions be drowned in the bathtub, or reformed?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

Does the first comment look like “Argh”?

You folks are funny.

dan1111 January 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

It does appear to be eliciting “AAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!” from union supporters. I’m not sure that was really the purpose, though.

Jan January 15, 2013 at 10:14 am

A single, graphic anecdote like this with the title “uncovering union violence” is published precisely to get a visceral reaction from readers.

dan1111 January 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

It is not an “anecdote”, it is events that actually happened, with videotape evidence. “Uncovering union violence” seems like a pretty straightforward description of it. The post and article raise a number of systemic issues. I’m not sure why you view this as some kind of hit job.

dead serious January 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

Anecdote doesn’t imply fiction. It does mean that in absence of actual data, it’s one story among many.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

Anecdote is what the unions probably want to scare off other scabs. It is interesting that video documentation turns the public opinion when anecdote works on behalf of the union.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 11:48 am

Any anecdote like this is one too many. Sure, the reaction is visceral; think about being fence-squeezed for a moment. Wouldn’t you be reacting viscerally?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Yes, unless your viscera was spilled out all over the concrete.

Steve Sailer January 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

A wealthy businessman from Wisconsin told me never to get involved in a real estate development deal in some place where you don’t have a lot of clout. He said he got invited into the successful Sandberg Village development in Chicago as a young man in the 1960s, and that went so well he tried more out of town deals only to have them flop in unpredictable ways. Only then did he realize he had made money in Chicago not because he was a brilliant investor but because he’d been invited in by well-connected Chicago insiders who wanted him to be their connection for developments in Wisconsin.

handworn January 16, 2013 at 11:26 am

That’s right, and that clout is one reason why the suburbs are so attractive– each resident gets to be a bigger fish in relation to the size of the pond. Philadelphia tries to do something akin to this, with its powerful CDCs and neighborhood civic associations, but it doesn’t work well.

Steve Sailer January 15, 2013 at 8:55 am

It’s interesting to try to figure out why some industries have well-paid unions that don’t need violence, like movies and television. I suspect it’s because the bigshots in creative fields tend to procrastinate so much that they wind up paying the full union tab much of the time rather than spend time trying out cheaper alternatives.

RPLong January 15, 2013 at 10:31 am

No, it’s because the arts have always been a union shop, even before the creation of “unions” was formalized in those industries. It’s always been an inside game about who you know, not what you do. That’s what being “cool” is all about. Why else do you think Duke Ellington starved while Tom Jones became a millionaire?

prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 10:59 am

Duke Ellington never starved – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Ellington

RPLong January 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

Well, gee whiz. I picked the wrong set of names for my comparison. I suppose that means that the arts are entirely meritocratic and not at all corrupt and nepotistic.

Eric Rasmusen January 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Here’s my guess: in movies and TV, all the high-quality workers are happy with the union, and you can’t hire two cheap mediocre cameramen to replace one ultra-expensive good one. In construction, on the other hand, the non-union workers aren’t as good as the union ones, but they’re close enough.

Howl January 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm

“the non-union workers aren’t as good as the union ones, but they’re close enough”

I’m not convinced this is true. Part of what a union does is to protect the least-motivated, least-productive workers from reaping the consequences of their own noncompetitiveness. The most talented, highly-skilled workers are naturally incentivized to negotiate on their own skills, rather than be lumped in with the less-skilled, or in this article, the drunk, hungover, or criminal.

handworn January 16, 2013 at 11:31 am

It’s for the same reason big-league sports are full of well-paid unions: part of what they’re selling is kind of like a collection of brands and sub-brands, like with the Philadelphia Phillies and then the sub-brands of the individual players. We want to see our favorite entertainers (of both kinds) over and over, and discuss their statistics, and predict how well they’ll do, and so on. Their brand is such that so long as they keep playing well they can’t be replaced with any effectiveness. Ordinary tradesmen or factory workers, on the other hand, can be.

Careless January 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

I do not think many movie fans can name a favorite key grip

EJ January 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

Another perspective on this same issue. Presumably with its own biases as well, but nice to add some nuance to this discussion:

http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2012/08/30/drawing-a-line-in-the-concrete/

EJ January 15, 2013 at 9:20 am
jizay January 15, 2013 at 9:58 am

I live in the neighborhood where this development is occurring. Last summer was awful. 75-100 tradespeople in the neighborhood every day stalking the construction site. Violence, threats, blocking truck deliveries, flattening truck tires and smashing windshields, the list goes on and on. We told police, council people, news outlets, etc. and the whole thing was ignored. It probably sounds incredible that stuff like that could be going on in the present day, but I assure you that it’s alive and well in Philadelphia, including a recent arson at the site of a Quaker meeting house! Back then, I had dreamed of the day when this would receive any media attention, much less national, and I thank Alex for posting the story here.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 10:04 am

Some of the stuff videoed looks like it’d get you in jail for a number of years. Has anyone been prosecuted? With video like this how can the police turn a blind eye?

prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 11:05 am

You do realize the police are also unionized, right?

Which is why American anti-union types are remarkably circumspect in regards to police unions. Which is one reason many anti-union types like to talk about school teachers (or these day, even firefighters), while ignoring how police unions work.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 11:30 am

Huh? I think the police are douchebags, but it never crossed my mind that it is because they are union.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 11:32 am

Rahul,

It is possibly now that there is vivid video evidence that the police can’t turn a blind eye which is the thing here.

DocMerlin January 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

“It is possibly now that there is vivid video evidence that the police can’t turn a blind eye ”
Watch them.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

You are right. I should have said “marginally less likely to be able to.”

handworn January 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Regularly risking getting shot is a more powerful argument than producing cars or teaching your kid how to critique Wuthering Heights.

jizay January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Sheriff’s dept. moderators watched the site during working hours at the expense of the developer. Half of this stuff happened right in front of them while they did nothing. As another poster noted, the police are unionized and likely sympathetic with the cause. It took us months to make this stuff public and when pressure finally started coming from the people, two of the perpetrators in the fence incident were arrested.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

In my experience this is how the justice system always is. We don’t have to assume that we have to beat them into doing what they are paid to do only because we are black, non-union, etc.

Eric Rasmusen January 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The Philadelphia arrangement depends on neutralizing the government and the press. The elected officials control the police, and they have to be made to believe that fighting the construction union won’t be good for their re-elections. I don’t know how the press are to be squared, but perhaps it’s by the threat of violence against the business— that’s easy for TV reporting, at least.

One interesting feature of all of this is that the Pestronk brothers are still alive. Is the decline of the Mafia part of this? Might it be that an understanding has been reached by Pestronks, business leaders, mayor, and union that a murder would be going too far, and the City would then have to go after the union?

Bill January 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

Gee, a story showing that our courts work and that a business knows how to use the legal system to address a problem.

Truly an under reported story. Maybe we should use the courts more often.

Now, maybe I won’t need to buy that gun afterall.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

Selling your guy(s)?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

guns? How much? Meet where?

Mark January 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

I worked at K-Mart in Annandale as a teenager during the Washington Post Pressmen’s strike. For those who don’t remember or are too young to know what happened, the pressmen and eight other unions sabotaged the presses and assembly areas of the Post and then walked out.

The union members went after advertisers, which K-Mart was one. Most of it was juvenile and just a nuisance, like filling up carts with merchandise and then abandoning them so the merchandise had to be restocked. But then they became destructive, like breaking things and opening cans of motor oil and spilling it on floors, which of course was a huge safety issue. But lastly, they then began attacking customers outside of stores (at least this one), which called for police action. I don’t remember if K-Mart was able to obtain a restraining order or block them in some other way from entering the store, but if I recall their exit was not voluntary.

richard January 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

Pretty brave talking the much maligned and greatly diminished labor unions. Let’s see how brave you really are: I double-dog dare you to say something (anything, anything at all) negative about the Koch brothers. Or does money buy a free pass at marginal revolution?

ladderff January 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

David Koch is quite bald. Happy?

handworn January 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I don’t know if that makes him happy, but it sure as hell amuses me.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

Not diminished enough apparently. The poor guy wincing behind that fence in the video probably doesn’t agree they are diminished. Did you see the videos?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

I saw the Koch brothers beat the fucking shit out of this guy with a fence.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

Alex, feel free to delete after laughing ;)

RPLong January 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

Doesn’t it bother you that the only way you can reconcile the fact that some people oppose unions is by concocting an elaborate conspiracy theory?

Do you think the people running unions are poor?

Yancey Ward January 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

The Kochs eat liberals for breakfast, or so I am told.

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

You know the phrase “who peed on your corn flakes”? It was the Kochs.

Doug January 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

Any respect unions lack they do so from their own doing. The fact that they’re not outlawed under RICO statutes and union organizers all jailed for the criminals they are, is only because of the pervasive leftism in this country.

Any sane civilization would see these jack-booted thugs for what they are. Simply another manifestation of the ever-present Marxist undercurrents in our society. No different than the Bolsheviks they’ll use violence and intimidation to get what they want, all while hiding under the ridiculous justification of “defending the little guy.”

If you look at a truly great leader, like Augustus Caesar, Frederick the Great or Lee Kuan Yew I think we all know they’d have no tolerance for Western 20th century unions.

bjssp January 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

How is it that a country like Sweden can have something like 70-plus percent of workers in unions without such supposedly widespread problems?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hmmm, maybe Sweden is different in more than just the one way of union membership.

prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Well, they do follow a pacifist foreign policy.

Amazingly, so does Germany, another country with powerful unions and remarkably little in the way of pro or anti-union violence.

bjssp January 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Like how? Got any good links?

Andrew' January 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Oh you are right. Sweden is identical in every other way other than unionization.

P_A, don’t get pacifist and pacified twisted.

prior_approval January 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

‘is only because of the pervasive leftism in this country’

Best satire site on the web – it bears repeating.

Hans Jonasson January 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

As a Swedish labour lawyer ( well used to be…) I can say that there are some differences – legal and cultural/historical – that gives Sweden a different unionism. It is all open-shop, meaning that the collective bargaining agreement conditions must be applied to all concerned employees by the employer (equal treatment by law which is enforced through the courts by the unions who do not want non-members undercutting them on wages or have their members discriminated against). This means that the union is more of an association of individuals who join it to protect and advance their common interests rather than a poorly governed labour monopoly without any exit dynamics.

The culture of Swedish unionism has been formed to a large extent in the export oriented engineering industry (automotive, machinery, etc.) where unions were able to gain good working conditions in return for no strikes and a long-term acceptance of the need for the employer to be competitive in order to continue to offer those good conditions. Nevertheless, in the sectors of the economy that are not subject to international competition, there is a more confrontational view and especially the construction and electrician unions are known to be difficult. Due to the legal and institutional framework established by the dominant industries, this remains a marginal phenomenon though.

vanderleun January 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

richard, when yøu have a spare moment can you please trundle off to the side in your electric Rascal and perform self-intercourse with a low-yield thermonuclear bomb for being a boring, mind-colonized pod person? Thanking you in advance.

Rich Berger January 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

Let’s add this to the unions’ behavior in Wisconsin and Michigan. This is really like reporting that water is wet.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

I don’t think the unions in Wisconsin used violence as a tactic in the recent demonstrations. I might be wrong.

BillD January 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

Illegal violence and intimidation still seem to be part of the unions’ tactics. This time damaging the construction of a Quaker meeting house.
http://articles.philly.com/2013-01-05/news/36150893_1_first-new-quaker-meetinghouse-trade-unions-nonunion-workers

derek January 15, 2013 at 11:05 am

Is it any wonder these tactics are used when they have the tacit or active support of half the US voters.

dan1111 January 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

Anecdote implies an unverified story that is passed along second hand. While it could be true, its truth is uncertain. An odd choice of words when there is video of multiple incidents.

Verbiage aside, my real issue is that some people seem to be implying that this is a non-story, or even that it is unfair or misleading to bring it up. They are not even saying “these events are unfortunate, but it’s a few individuals and not representative of unions.” They are instead questioning the legitimacy of the story, impugning Alex’s motives, or trying to change the topic to the Koch brothers (or whatever).

Ricardo January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Not really… Anecdote: “a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature”

Brian Donohue January 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

What is wrong with news reporters anyway? Anything that isn’t a peer-reviewed article chock full of cross-sectional data analyses is not fit for public consumption.

It’s just a story. People should stop telling stories. It’s so unscientific.

bjssp January 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

Are there any reliable statistics as to how much union violence occurs? Seems highly unfair to cast dispersions on people without presenting much evidence it’s a considerable problem. Any violence is unacceptable, and the 1972 attacks against Altemose are no doubt appalling, but you’ve presented no evidence that it’s really a widespread problem.

Adam January 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Union violence is under-reported? That’s crazy talk. You’re letting your political views, which are entirely valid, influence your assessment of people’s character, which isn’t.

If anything, union violence is vastly over-reported, with an entire sub-genre of conservative media devoted to uncovering or, more likely, manufacturing it. And that’s not even mentioning the myth of the jack-booted Teamster. Or this article, which is heavy with implications of real threats and but short on much actual violence.

The average union member is a teacher or a nurse and is no more likely to use violence than you or I. Even unions in manual labor trades are more likely to use a gruff word or three than flurry of punches.

At least try to keep your attacks on labor grounded in facts, please.

Rahul January 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

“short on much actual violence”

Did you see the videos?

Adam January 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Videos? Where are you getting the plural? There is one video of a man being squished by a fence. That seems to be sum total of the “underreported” violence.

bjssp January 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Better questions, for starters:

1. What’s the total number of incidents confirmed?
2. What’s the total number of attackers involved?
3. How many unionized workers are there in total in the city?
4. How many unionized workers are there in relevant trades?

Even one incident is unacceptable, but in the same way it’s unfair to tar all corporations for the seedy actions of a few, it’s not fair to blame all unionized workers for the actions of a few.

Ricardo January 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

There are 20+ videos in the playlist.

Adam January 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Did you watch them? Or just assume that video=violence? If the latter, why would you think that phillymag.com didn’t chose others with violence to embed?

I didn’t watch all of them all the way through. I did see one other (captioned as involving a “slap”) that involved a brief bit of mutual shoving between a union guy and a security guard. We can call that violence too, I guess, but it was mostly a whole lot of nothing. I didn’t see any other violence, either in the samples I looked at or in the video captions.

Like the rest of the videos. Pretty normal picket line stuff. Are they cheery and nice to everyone coming buy? Of course not. But they aren’t beating anyone with sock filled quarters either.

Ricardo January 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I did watch the videos, all of them, beginning to end. I thought the “violence” was pretty tame, to be honest. The guy “crushed” by a fence seemed like he was exaggerating, and of course he was wearing a camera, which makes me suspicious. So maybe he baited the assailants. That having been said, they did assail him.

Clearly both sides are behaving obnoxiously here. But who started it? If you are sympathetic to unions, you’d say the “Post” Brothers started it by hiring non-union labor. If you are not sympathetic to unions, you’d say the unions started it by impeding the construction work.

mw January 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

We need to redistribute the enormous power unions hold to CEOs, I vote for Fix The Debt.

Also, 2 youtube videos make a trend. Incredible post.

jizay January 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Feel free to check out phillybully.com if you want to see more than 2. I would invite everyone to check out the new pics and vids of more recent union violence at the Goldtex site:

http://phillybully.com/PhillyBully.com/Updates_%26_New_Videos/Updates_%26_New_Videos.html

jizay January 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

The veteran iron worker in this video who attacked 2 workers with a crowbar is the same guy in one of the earlier videos on phillybully who can be seen pushing one of the security guards down:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK-iNSLaOK0&feature=youtu.be

And they just keep letting him come back.

Ricardo January 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I watched the videos and was struck by how overweight so many of the picketers were.

Ted B January 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

This piece documents the problems Philly construction trade unions have brought to the city. Today they use political power more than they use violence:

http://thetruthaboutplas.com/2011/12/01/philly-mayor-opens-door-to-waste-and-discrimination-with-pro-pla-executive-order/

DCBILLS January 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Labor and management always have and always will have an adversarial relationship. It is the natural order of things. It is clear that many of the commentators have limited real world experience. When pushed too far, intelligent workers will act as required and workers are very often pushed too far. In my experience, managers who antagonize employees are responsible for most of the conflict. Viewpoints on these issues are almost completely determined by which side you are on IMHO. I’ve seen it all from both sides including twenty years as an elected union officer.

Careless January 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I wish that were the natural order of things with local public sector unions. It’s not.

nlrb comment January 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

Alex, why don’t you interview some NLRB field agents and attourneys from that office and get some facts that paint a more complete picture of what goes on with both sides, labor and employers. I have spoken with NLRB field investigators and the things they see on both sides would make liberals and libertarian/neo-liberal economists shut their mouths on whether or not unions are bad, and instead focus on the economic effects of the abuse of power in ANY organization where money is in play. Really, union bashing, corporate bashing, government bashing…the common thread is organizational behavior and people, some with power, some without, those who want more, those who want to preserve their own (and at anyone else’s expense.) Until youstart talking like a sociologist about that, you just come off like a political blogger, of which there are far, far too many.

Samanjj January 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

Union bashing one this reputable site? For shame. The link from Wikipedia demonstrates that the 8 hour day was a hard fought battle by workers for fair pay for fair work. It happened globally from Iran to Australia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day#Australia

CEOs are getting millions of dollars bonus after cutting positions and some of you talk about overpay for workers? Which planet do you live on? And most of you who disagreed with this being an anecdote don’t even know what it means. It is an anecdote and one story does not make a trend. One incident is not one too much or else you would be doing something about gun violence in your country a long long time ago.

#samanjj

TheAJ January 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Conservatives have always believed that everyone is overpaid but themselves.

Floccina January 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Looks like cheap ubiquitous video and ability to cheaply communicate it is solving another problem. I am OK with unions but they can do damage if they get too strong same with management. It would be nice to have more videos of management meetings also. Open books management seems like it would be a great thing if it spread.

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