workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Union Scabs Spend Big on Polytricksters

The lock-out at the Philadelphia Convention Center continues, with four AFL-affiliated “unions” waltzing across the picket lines of the locked-out Carpenters and Teamsters. The six unions were given 24 hours to sign a concessionary contract which surrendered much of their jurisdictional rights; when the two unions balked, asking for negotiations over the details, they were locked out. They quickly capitulated, agreeing to the terms imposed by the Convention Center’s newly privatized management, but the bosses have continued the lock-out despite their surrender.

At this point it seems that the lock-out will continue as long as the unions allow it to. On the one hand, the four scabbing unions could quickly end the lock-out by refusing to continue their union scabbery. On the other hand, the Convention Center is completely dependent upon unionized trucking and other firms to maintain its operations, and so were Teamsters drivers and other unionized workers to honor the picket lines management would have no choice but to end the lock-out. Instead, it appears that the locked-out unions are trusting to the Labor Board to do justice. That is likely to be a long wait indeed.

Leading the forces of the union scabs is International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, whose business agent, John J. Dougherty Jr., led the scabs into the Convention Center on the first day of the lock-out. IBEW 98 is not a particularly large outfit, with some 3,800 members across the region, but it has spent $25.6 million on polytricksters since 2000, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  This makes it one of Pennsylvania’s biggest political spenders, far outranking the natural gas drilling industry (the crackers), the much larger teachers union, and other big political spenders. Most of the money comes from union members’ pockets, but some is chipped in by construction bosses (including one who recently finished a prison term for tax evasion and bribery of “union” officials) and others.

The IBEW says it is buying influence. It has sent more than $100,000 to the state’s union-busting Republican governor, and also poured nearly a quarter-million bucks into the unsuccessful campaign of a politically connected Democratic pol seeking the nomination to unseat him. (That went to a millionaire who bought the nomination with heavy TV advertising.)  The spending has led to several of its operatives holding political office, to Docherty serving on a variety of government boards (including, at one point, the Convention Center’s), and to enriching a lot of TV stations and campaign consultants.

It hasn’t built a strong labor movement (the union share of local construction jobs continues to fall), to safer jobs, or to better lives for Philly construction workers. But no doubt it’s too much to hope for a bunch of scabs to pursue goals like that…


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