A Philadelphia developer using non-union labor to build apartment complexes has alleged the city's building trade unions are using violence and intimidation to stop their business projects.
The developer established a website - www.phillybully.com - which it claims shows the labor unions' violence and vandalism. The labor unions deny the accusations and say the videos are half-truths. They accuse the developer of violence.
The developer, Post Goldtex LLC, obtained a temporary injunction April 20 issued by Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas. Among other things, the injunction ordered the union protesters to stay 15 yards from any entrance to the premises and prohibited them from engaging in coercion or intimidation.
The Complaint in Equity filed in court alleges a number of actions committed by the various unions named as defendants. Among the acts listed is that the defendants allegedly "physically blocked the entrance to the Premises, preventing people and vehicles from either entering or leaving the premises, and used intimidating gestures and speech."
Another allegation states that on Feb. 16, the defendants trespassed on the developers' property at 633 Rittenhouse. According to the complaint a "Goldtex security officer requested the defendants move off of the property; Defendants responded, 'Better call the cops you nigger.'"
Another allegation states that, "As a direct result of Defendants' conduct, persons having lawful business with Goldtex have been intimidated by the picketing, aggressive gestures and speech."
Michael N. Katz, of the Philadelphia law firm of Meranze and Katz represents the unions in the litigation. He vehemently denies the allegations in the complaint - especially the accusation that a racial slur was used.
"This is absolutely not true. There were no racial slurs used," he said. "The person about whom the allegation was made does not speak that way. Indeed he works side-by-side daily with African-Americans and enjoys a great relationship with them."
Katz pointed out that there seems to be a focus in the media about alleged union violence, but what he described as "the well demonstrated verbal and physical intimidation by Goldtex Security personnel who assault peaceful union pickets without provocation," is ignored.
"These union pickets are exercising their First Amendment rights," Katz said. "What this dispute is really about is Post Goldtex engaging in unfair competition by coming into an area and depressing wages and benefits so as to unfairly compete with responsible contractors who pay living wages to their employees. They are backed by big investor money and seeking to take jobs away from Philadelphia area working people."
It seems that the legal battle will continue. According to Charles Ercole, the attorney representing Post, another court appearance is scheduled June 13 for a hearing on a permanent injunction - unless the parties come to an arrangement with the union before then.
But Ercole said there may also be a contempt hearing requested between now and then. He said the union has been in contempt of the order ever since it was issued.