Folks, union officials span the city limits daily encountering back alley construction projects run by shoddy non-union contractors who are often paying substandard wages to their non-union workers, who are lucky if they are getting benefits at all. Many of these jobs include workers who are forced to work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week without overtime pay or even lunch breaks in some cases. The stories of the terrible working conditions are unprecedented and in some cases boggle the imagination. In fact, I remember one story told to me by a former non-union worker who finally got his shot at getting in the union, who told me that his former non-union boss used to tell him often to be careful while he was working and don’t dare fall off the building because “if you do, you’re fired before you hit the ground.”
The crazy thing about a lot of these non-union jobs is that you would think that the owners of the project would do a back ground check on the contractors that exceeds choosing them based on the lowest bid to make sure the company and the workers they are hiring are reputable and of the highest quality skill level. You’d like to think that when you and/or your family members are driving down the road and you see the boom of a 100 ton crane flying high in the sky above the street that the individuals responsible for the situation have taken into consideration every possible side of the equation including public safety before they begin construction or demolition.
Now, there are certainly different scenarios and reasons why different people do different things regarding hiring a contractors and no 2 situations are the same but in most cases, the motive behind owners and project managers hiring non-union contractors is financially related. They think they can save money by hiring cheaper labor. They put the project up for bid and take the lowest bidder, they do the math and think they are saving money often not taking in consideration the difference in skill level or resources a union contractor can provide to a project that can actually help expedite the project thus making the job more efficiently run and often, in the long run, more economical for the owner of the project
Sometimes these non-union projects are spearheaded by people who, for some reason, just do not like unions and even more often they are run by people who just do not have financial resources to do it right and they try to cut corners to get the job done under the radar. They work at night or on weekends in order to go unnoticed in hopes of getting in and out before the public finds out what’s really going on and how they are exploiting their workers.
Whatever the case maybe, rarely in the history of Philadelphia, in such a high profile location, do you encounter a situation more blatantly wrong than that of which occurred at 22nd and Market Streets last Wednesday June 5, 2013 where a wealthy millionaire owner hired a non-union contractor with a criminal record, whose judgement was so poor that he had an operating engineer on the demo who allegedly tested positive for marijuana and prescription drugs and is now in police custody charged with manslaughter in the killing of the 6 innocent victims, whose only fault was trusting that the individuals responsible for the demolition of the building had taken the proper precautions in protecting the public safety and doing the job right. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Amongst the true tragedies here was the fact that the owner of the building being demolished was not some poor financially strapped, under funded schmuck who was cutting corners on the demo because he was cash poor and had no choice. This, building was owned by STB Investments Corp, whose principal, Richard Basciano, is reported to have an estimated wealth in the multi-millions, who had a vision to develop that section Market St. into something very upscale and had the capital to do it. In other words this guy had the money to do this right but for some reason (Could It Be GREED, SELFISHNESS, INCOMPETENCE, IGNORANCE OR ALL OF THE ABOVE????) DID IT BLATANTLY WRONG and as a result cost 6 innocent people there lives and badly injured many more.
FINAL QUESTIONS: Why would a wealthy owner with this kind of wealth choose to hire a cheap, under skilled, under qualified Non-union labor when he clearly had the resources to do it right? WAS MAKING MONEY REALLY WORTH ENDING THE LIVES OF 6 INNOCENT PEOPLE?