September 5, 2016
ISSUE | LABOR DAY Thank the unions I sincerely hope everyone is enjoying this three-day holiday weekend. Your long weekend has been brought to you by the American labor movement. We're also the ones who fought for the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, employee benefits, safe working conditions, and child labor laws. In virtually every recent positive development in the city - from the papal visit and the Democratic National Convention to the explosion in new construction in every neighborhood - Philadelphia's unions played significant roles in the success.
May 23, 2016 |
Two years ago, fast-food worker Shymara Jones was a single mother, living with her mother, siblings, and son in a three-bedroom rowhouse on a worn-down block in the non-gentrified part of Grays Ferry, hard by warehouses and refineries. None of that has changed, but everything is different. Same small house, same small street, same Popeyes at Broad and Catharine Streets where Jones, 22, has worked since 2009. But in that time, Jones visited the Eiffel Tower. She met fast-food workers in Brussels, picketed corporate meetings in Chicago - twice - shook hands with politicians, led marches down Broad Street, and plans to rally outside the McDonald's annual meeting this week.
May 2, 2016
ISSUE | LABOR A pioneer and legend The Philadelphia building trades mourn the loss of Samuel Staten Sr., 80, the former business manager of Laborers Local 332, former secretary-treasurer of the Laborers' District Council of the Metropolitan Area of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and a pioneer of the city's labor community. Staten was a legend in the labor and civic communities. He was more than a mentor; he was an inspiration to me and countless other labor leaders in this city. His courage, leadership, and vision helped make Philadelphia one of the nation's great union towns.
December 16, 2015 |
E.T. Thorpe was giddy. On the same day last week, at two different corners in one of Philadelphia's most distinguished neighborhoods, he came face-to-gut with a creature of mystifying proportions. "Did you know," Thorpe said, with artful eyeglasses and a bemused smile as he teased from the doorway of a Pine Street framing shop, "there were two dueling rats?" Scabby the Rat, the two-story-tall inflatable rodent of labor-movement legend, was on double duty in Center City, serving as a monstrous prop of protest that labor leaders say is an essential ploy in hostile times.
July 19, 2015 |
Patrick Eiding, head of Philadelphia's largest federation of labor unions, found himself facing a terrible dilemma. Should he attend a Monday morning rally to support fellow labor leader Joseph Dougherty? Dougherty, 73, has been convicted of racketeering, and on Monday will be sentenced by a federal judge. He could get 15 to 25 years in prison. Or should he stay clear of public association with Dougherty? For Eiding, the predicament placed him at the crossroads of friendship and marketing, where public image challenges personal loyalty.
March 10, 2015 |
Lots of labor news in the last three weeks - and in some ways, the 21,000-member union local led by Wendell Young 4th has been at the heart of all of it. On Feb. 19, for example, Walmart announced it would raise minimum wages for its workers to $9 an hour starting in April. In Philadelphia, and across the nation, the United Food and Commercial Workers union has spent at least the last two decades pressuring Walmart on its wage policies. On Feb. 26, the Pennsylvania House voted to privatize the state's liquor stores.
January 18, 2015 |
They might not like Yuengling. But the Teamsters evidently are drunk in love with Gov.-elect Tom Wolf. A day after State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) said that Wolf's inauguration planners were excluding Yuengling, the Pottsville-based brew, from his inaugural celebration, the leader of Teamsters Local 830 sent out a news release praising the incoming governor - and teeing off on the brewery's president, Richard Yuengling Jr., whom the union has long described as "anti-worker.
October 16, 2014 |
Outraged by the School Reform Commission's decision to cancel its collective bargaining agreement with Philadelphia public school teachers, city labor leaders contemplated calling for a general strike. In two meetings, last Thursday and Sunday, labor leaders debated the wisdom of asking members of all area unions - laborers, electricians, communications workers, janitors, nurses, bus drivers, city employees - to walk off their jobs to protest the SRC's decision. "If there is going to be a fight, we have to fight about the future, and the kids are the future," said Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, headquartered in Philadelphia.
May 12, 2014 |
A prominent plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum contains this familiar quotation from French-born historian Jacques Barzun: "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball. " Sadly, it's in a museum, surrounded by other relics, where Barzun's 1954 observation belongs. The long-held notion that America is reflected in its onetime pastime is, in 2014, as passé as a slap-hitter. In fact, when it comes to baseball and the new national reality, the opposite is often true.
March 5, 2014 |
Growing up in Abington, Frederick Wright learned about the labor movement at the knee of his father, a union millwright at the U.S. Steel plant in Fairless Hills. He also learned about management from his father, who on the side operated a landscaping company that employed Wright and his older brother. One summer, his brother was put in charge of collecting payments. Once his brother realized how much money their father was making and how little they were being paid, he dispatched Frederick to ask for raises.