Saturday, May 23, 2015

Side by side by supermarket

What does Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein think about unions? I have no idea, but he's got to be grateful for the help that he got from a union leader that helped him close a deal worth millions of dollars.

Side by side by supermarket

Shopper Laura Daley in front of an empty supermarket in Northern Liberties.
Shopper Laura Daley in front of an empty supermarket in Northern Liberties. Maria Panaritis

What does Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein think about unions? I have no idea, but he's got to be grateful for the help that he got from a union leader that helped him close a deal worth millions of dollars.

Just another example of how business leaders can use unions to build wealth -- for everyone.

Listen, many, many business people will tell you stories about how unions ruin their business, and I'd actually like to hear some real examples of it for this blog. But, you don't often hear of union and management working hand-in-glove. My colleague, Maria Panaritis, laid it out excellently in her Sunday Inquirer piece on the new SuperFresh coming to Bart Blatstein-ville, otherwise known as Northern Liberties.

Blatstein wanted a supermarket at 2d and Girard and had signed a deal for a Pathmark with the chain's parent company, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., Inc. (remember A&P). The company's bankruptcy put everything on hold, with claims complicating the scenario. But Blatstein and Wendell Young IV, head of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, put a double blitz on Craig Feldman, general counsel for A&P.

They sent him market data, Inquirer census stories -- anything that would convince him to make the store happen. Both men had a lot to lose:  Blatstein had millions of dollars of leases and equipment hanging in the balance. Young's union, which represents supermarket clerks at Acme, SuperFresh and Pathmark stores, was under threat as Acme loses market share. They needed each other. The deal got done.

"I was very appreciative on my end that Wendell was pushing," Blatstein said.

"Bart's people helped me put together a great portfolio on the neighborhood," Young said.

That's this month's example. Remember Philly's ill-fated soda tax? It took a Pepsi tycoon, plus the union Teamsters who worked for him, to drown that measure in City Council. Read my blog post on that, titled, appropriately enough, Side by side by soda. 

 

Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
Topics: