Kudos to Philadelphia City Council for stepping up and recognizing the need to open public construction projects to minority and open-shop contractors who pay taxes in Philadelphia but have been shut out of working here ("Council's union challenge a gamble," Dec. 9).
Most people are unaware that unions represent a minority of employees in the construction industry, nationally and in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, construction industry employment is 85 percent open shop and 15 percent union. In Pennsylvania, it is 80 percent open shop and 20 percent union. These numbers discredit self-serving assertions by the building trades unions that open-shop contractors are untrained, unsafe, unskilled, and unable to provide quality construction services.
By denying open-shop and minority contractors an opportunity to work on public construction projects in Philadelphia, the city is discriminating against the majority of construction employees in the area. This has reduced competition and results in increased construction costs for taxpayers.
City Council's action to eliminate long-standing discriminatory construction practices that benefited a select few at the expense of minority and open-shop contractors is long overdue and should be applauded by every taxpayer in Philadelphia.
Geoffrey N. Zeh
President and Chief Executive Officer
Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter
Associated Builders & Contractors Inc.
I am a member of a large local building-trades union in Philadelphia. After reading the articles about nonunion shops being given the go-ahead to bid on jobs at the Convention Center, I was a bit confused. The articles seem to imply that minorities are being turned away from union building trades or not accepted due to their race. I believe all building trades take all races, creeds and colors ("Minorities in the middle," Dec. 8).
The only thing stopping anyone from entering a union building-trades job or any job may be education. I believe all building-trades unions require a high school diploma or G.E.D. for entry. So, any minority - or anyone - who would like to better himself or herself with a good paying job and great benefits, and who wants to become a skilled laborer in any of the union trades, just needs to apply.
Applications are free at any union training center or halls. You just need proper identification and you can fill out the form with all the necessary documents. If this can not be accomplished, then no matter who you are or what your race is you will not gain entry into any of the training facilities that the union building-trades offer.
Nonunions being invited to bid on large construction sites in Philadelphia is not a race thing like everyone wants to make it out to be.
Regarding the City of Philadelphia's plans to evict the Boy Scouts from their headquarters at 22d and Winter Streets, or make them pay the exorbitant rental fee of $200,000 per year, I would like to make a suggestion. If everyone in the Philadelphia area whose lives have been influenced by the scouting movement would take either their entire United Way contribution, or a significant part of it, and donate it to the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts, they could probably pay several years' rent with this money ("Councilman says city might pay back scouts," Dec. 8).
I also have many questions about the legitimacy of the city's plans. Since the city did not build the building and has not maintained it over these many years, how can it possibly claim ownership of it? How can it collect rent on a building it did not build? Or does it plan on buying the building from the Boy Scouts and reimbursing them for all the years the scouts have spent the money to remodel and maintain it?