According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
On Thursday, Councilman Frank DiCicco, who has been at loggerheads with the building-trades unions over casino construction, proposed the amendment, taking up a cause promulgated by African American council members.
He and Patrick Gillespie, business manager for the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, exchanged sharp words when Gillespie could not produce statistics about minority membership in the council's 42 unions.
At what cost?...
Now, the unions' lack of diversity and feigned (or real) ignorance may come back to haunt them as Philadelphia's City Council has proposed opening the normally union-only Convention Center to open bidding, which would allow non-union contractors into the Center.
Accusing trade unions of standing in the way of minority hiring objectives, City Council [last Thursday] declared the $700 million Convention Center expansion open to nonunion contractors and workers - an unprecedented gesture in a city
dominated by organized labor.
Citing the construction industry's repeated failures to meet minority hiring goals on public projects and the unions' refusal to disclose the racial makeup of their memberships, Council voted to amend the Convention Center's operating agreement to allow nonunion workers, to help increase minority participation.
Mayor-elect Michael Nutter appeared to support Council's action yesterday.
"Clearly, that amendment represents the frustration that many of us have felt in creating opportunities for African Americans and Latin Americans in terms of access to the construction trades and participating in all the tremendous construction activity in Philadelphia," said Nutter.
"We must create a more diverse workforce in the construction industry in the city."
The very thought of allowing nonunion contractors on a major public works project in Philadelphia stunned longtime observers.
"Wow," said public relations executive A. Bruce Crawley, one of the city's leading critics of the union's efforts at hiring minorities. "Wow."
"This is very encouraging for African American contractors who would simply
like not to be excluded from the work," he said.
Patrick Gillespie, business manager for the Philadelphia Building and Construction
Trades Council, said such a requirement would endanger the project labor agreement the 42 local unions he represents are negotiating with the Convention Center Authority. Such agreements are common before major projects -
they set the standards of work and pay, usually require union labor, and are meant to avoid job disruptions.
Yeah, bringing in non-union contractors will be the start of World War III in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love, but perhaps it's been too long in coming.
Perhaps it's time to open the Convention Center to open competition and end the unions' racist monopoly in Philadelphia.