The feud between some Philadelphia construction unions and a developer has gone the way of many historic battles: It’s been made into a movie. The 20-minute video from the Philadelphia Building Trades focuses on an apartment building near 12th and Vine streets.
The video, “Deconstructing Post Brothers: Exposing the Truth Behind the Cheap Façade,” is the latest punch in the fight over the use of non-union labor at the Goldtex Apartments building.
Alleged former workers speak anonymously in the video.
Among the allegations are that non-union construction works, lacking nearby toilets, frequently urinated in water bottles and then sealed those bottles in the walls of the building.
One man’s face is blacked out while he speaks.
Photos ― said to have come from the construction site — roll by the screen while the alleged former Goldtex worker describes the scene: “You have piles of high-voltage cable exposed, piles of trash 5-, 6-foot wide blocking the hallway, blocking exists and entrances, blocking elevators. You have workers working in this building. No fire extinguishers on any of these floors. A fire alarm that’s not installed. If a fire starts, God knows what would happen?”
“The tape is a piece of garbage,” responded Matt Pestronk, founder of Post Brothers Apartments, which is developing the site.
Pestronk quickly disputed the claims about mold and other problems.
“It would be incredibly foolish for us to invest $40 million to build a building and allow those things to go on,” he said. “If any of their allegations were true, we would have been shut down.”
Union workers intimidate and even assault his workers at the site, Pestronk said.
This is no small-time fight. The video includes prominent labor leaders and two city councilmen.
In one scene, Congressman Bob Brady describes the site of a fatal building collapse in Center City earlier this year. “You know hindsight is 100 percent at 22nd and Market. But on 12th Street, it’s not hindsight, it’s foresight,” Brady says. “You certainly try to prevent something happening some place else.”
Pestronk calls the attempt to compare his job site to what caused this summer’s building collapse “pretty disgusting.”
“Six people died there,” he said. “I’m not looking to use what happened there as a reference to our situation other than we believe we’re doing everything safely. Twenty-second and Market has nothing to do with this. The fear-mongering that these guys perpetrate is all these guys have.”
Despite all the controversy, Pestronk said efforts to rent out apartments are going well.