'Rat' contractors, 'union-stalking'

Came into work Monday morning to receive two missives -- both relating to the Post Brothers and their long dispute with the city's building trades.

On my desk was a crumpled leaflet from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 illustrated with a photo of a rat. Real nice. In my email in-box was a note from the communications director with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce who asked me, given my past coverage of this story, whether I'd like to speak to someone at the Chamber about proposed Pennsylvania legislation that would curb the ability of unions to protest as the building trades did at the Post Brothers construction site on 12th and Wood Streets near Chinatown. The subject line said "union stalking." Charming.

One missive was written rather crudely, with typos, spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, although the message was perfectly clear. The other was much more urbane, its intent somewhat cloaked in professional language. Still, very understandable. Sigh. All the rhetoric was way too exhausting for a Monday morning. I stood up and got myself a nice cup of herbal tea; I went for one described as "delicate and soothing," the opposite of these two letters.

There is no doubt that employers will make every effort to pay the lowest possible wages the market will bear. Likewise, employees will try to earn as much as they can, given the job market . There is also no doubt that consumers will do their best to buy every item at the lowest possible price, adding pressure to depress wages, quality, safety and profits. Investors, too, will seek the best possible return, paying executives a premium if they think it will help the cause. Obviously, unions like to have members who pay dues to promote the causes they deem worthy. Just like the Chamber.

This is the normal equilibrium in our world. Is it evil? I think that's a moral question beyond my purview as a newspaper reporter. But, if the equilibrium falls out of a balance and no one can earn a decent family sustaining wage, even a tanker truck of "delicate and soothing" herbal tea won't be enough.