Union leverage

I'm not going to get into who is right or wrong in this dispute between developers Michael and Matthew Pestronk and the building trades. Certainly there are merits to everyone's point of view. But I did find it interesting to hear Michael Pestronk's take on why he thought he and his brother were getting so much union pressure on their project at the former Goldtex factory at 12th and Wood Streets, just north of Vine Street in Center City.

(You can read my story about the dispute in Friday's Inquirer, plus a little more about it in yesterday's blog post.) The brothers are converting the 13-story building into 163 apartments and two retail spaces, a $38 million project.

Pestronk says that unlike most developers, he and his brother also act as their own general contractors. "Other developers tend to rely on third party general contractors," he said, "and most of their work comes from institutions."

So, if contractor does pick up a job from a private developer for a private project in Center City, the contractor is not likely to use non-union labor. "The unions will start picketing at their other projects, as the institutions and the institutions won't have it. So they don't want to risk their business. But we don't have that, so they [the unions] don't have that leverage," he said.

"We’re also completely privately funded. All of our money comes from private banks or investors. We don’t have any money from the city. We don’t have any public money at all, so they don’t have that leverage as well," he said.

"So because they don’t have those leverage points they have to take a stand," he said.

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