Police say union workers "almost certainly" torched an under-construction Quaker meetinghouse in northwest Philadelphia four days before Christmas. The Chestnut Hill Friends had hired non-union labor for the project, which discommoded several construction unions.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Vandals with an acetylene torch crept onto the project's muddy construction site in the middle of the night. Working out of view in the meetinghouse's freshly cemented basement, they sliced off dozens of bolts securing the bare steel columns and set fire to the building crane, causing $500,000 in damage.
Police detectives deemed the attack arson because of a series of confrontational visits from union officials days before the incident. They say the torch could only have been operated by a trained professional, and believe it was almost certainly the work of disgruntled union members. The city has assigned extra investigators to the case and is working with federal forensic experts to track down the vandals, said Michael Resnick, the city's public safety commissioner.
…Trade unions dictate hiring at virtually all large construction projects in the city. Their dominance has had the virtue of ensuring that members receive good salaries and generous benefits, on par with those in New York. But it has also made construction exceptionally expensive here. Those high costs, real estate experts like Kevin C. Gillen at Econsult argue, have been a drag on the city's revival.
…Cross [the unions] by hiring nonunion workers or demanding more efficient work rules, and you can expect a giant inflatable rat at your door—or worse. The Post brothers, who are renovating a former factory into apartments at 12th and Wood Streets, learned the hard way in the spring when union protesters laid siege to their construction site, blocking deliveries for five months.
…It was not an easy decision, acknowledged Meg Mitchell, clerk of the meeting, the closest thing the non-hierarchial group has to a spokesperson. But after assuring themselves that [the contractor] was paying fair wages and that his company had maintained an excellent safety record, she said, the Chestnut Hill Friends dropped any lingering reservations.
Philadelphia Magazine has in-depth coverage ("brutish threats, expletive-heavy protests") of the Post Brothers' dust-up with Philadelphia's Building and Construction Trades Council.
Reason hosted a dust-up of our own over right-to-work laws last month.