Racist Philadelphia union thugs count no minorities

Pat Gillespie, business manager of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, Thursday told City Council he believes it is nearly impossible to discover the minority membership of Philadelphia trade unions.

City Council didn't like that answer. It wants more minority participation in big public works projects like the proposed $700 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Frustrated by and doubting Mr. Gillespie's claim the minority make-up of the unions was impossible to determine, Council's Committee of the Whole decided to amend the agreement authorizing the Convention Center expansion to allow non-union companies to participate. If the agreement passes as amended next week, and it's expected to, it would be a historic moment in Philadelphia labor history.

The amendment permits the Convention Center to create a project labor agreement (PLA) that allows contracts to go to the lowest responsible bidder, regardless of whether the bidder is a union contractor, as long as the company pays the prevailing wage (the highest wage).

Councilman Frank DiCicco, who offered the Pennsylvania Convention Center expansion legislation, was ready to ask to hold the bill in committee over the issue of union minority disclosure. Even now that the bill has been unanimously voted out of committee, Mr. DiCicco refuses to say whether he will allow a vote on the bill next week or hold it.

If he decides to hold the bill the Convention Center expansion would not be able to proceed until at least February.

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tom Muldoon testified a delay would be a disaster.

"I have to tell [our clients by this week] we will be ready by 2011," Mr. Muldoon stated. "If it is not [passed next week] we will have to cancel the [bookings for] the first part of 2011. We already cancelled six major conventions for 2010. We stopped selling 2010 six months ago. We have quietly walked away from 2010. We are beginning to lose our credibility."

That testimony likely persuaded Mr. DiCicco to allow the amended bill to be voted out of committee.

Mr. DiCicco on Thursday dropped his attempt to hold the Convention Center expansion hostage to his fight against the state mandated casino sites in Philadelphia.

He had proposed holding all licenses and permits for the casinos until the governor agreed in writing to release the expansion funding.

Now Mr. DiCicco has decided he can use the jobs promised by the Convention Center expansion to pressure the unions into disclosing their minority membership. Local unions are often accused of deliberately keeping minority membership low and, despite frequent public calls to do so, have refused to release information on their racial makeup.

"In 12 years the unions have done nothing and nothing has changed in the area of increasing minority participation," Mr. DiCicco complained introducing his amendments. "[It's time] we do business by allowing non-union contractors to hire [minority workers]. It requires the bidding to be an open process whether it involves union or non-union bidders.

"I'd still like to see the numbers. It's clear Mr. Gillespie is not coming forth with the numbers," he said.

Convention Center CEO Al Mezzaroba was unperturbed by the amendment.

"This allows non-union contractors to bring their existing staff with them," he shrugged. "The project labor agreement will allow a successful non-union bidder to bring their own people provided they are paying prevailing wage. This has never been done before. I don't know think there is another PLA with this kind of language in it."


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