Unions were created when workers discovered “in union there is strength”. Unions grew even though membership understood their unity often demanded sacrifices of them, up to the shedding of blood at times. That still happens here and around the world.
Unionism, today, boasts a litany of victories alongside a list, almost as long, of defeats in the efforts to ensure decent, family-sustaining wages for its members and for non-union workers as well. That battle never ends. It continues in this city in many ways.
Philadelphia is labeled derogatorily as a “Union Town.” Every operative, seeking to make a buck here, spews venom when they discover they need to pay proper wages, the kind demanded and protected by this city’s unions even for nonunion workers.
Statistics show time and again, jobs using union labor come in under budget and finish up earlier than expected. This often is not the record of those attempting to use non-union contractors and their workforce.
Recent weeks have seen a lockout of two major unions from work at the Convention Center. The Carpenters and Teamsters are weekly demonstrating their ability to get word of the lockout to the general public and those seeking to convene here.
Gone are the wildcat strikes of yesteryear and with them the nearsighted labor leaders who pushed and demanded concessions at every opportunity, regardless of the damaging impact they would make.
Congratulations are due to Herman “Pete” Matthews for pushing the envelope with his rank and file having to go to the streets to get a fair contract from the City. He literally had to drag an adamant administration over a host of years to the bargaining table. He could have easily had them strike and watched hills of trash grow on city streets, creating a horrible image for Philadelphia.
There are many reasons why union labor is the best source. Foremost, the strength of the union movement in this town has insured developers, contractors, manufacturers and institutional managers a solid, dependable, trained workforce.
A major factor is the trades’ apprenticeship schools. They offer demanding, intensive training in whatever trade to young men and women who understand they have been placed on career paths. Their alumni are sought after by those who understand the full benefits of hiring trained union members at the rates called for by their agreements.
A strong force in training employees is the Laborers District Council in Philadelphia which will be opening a major trade apprentice school in the old William Penn High School on N. Broad Street. The union’s leadership has long been committed to opening educational opportunities for young men and women. What better way than to prepare them for work in the trades?
A look at today’s union leaders and of the locals they lead in this city shows a shared commitment to insuring the success of every venture and every contract so both sides at the table walk away knowing they have agreed to mutual win-win decisions.
To the unions, their leaders, and to their hard-working rank and file, we dedicate this issue.