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labor How Unions Avert Tragedies, Save Lives

A building collapse in Philadelphia kills 6 - a non-union contractor with a shady history faces scrutiny - see 2 articles below. The factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 workers is another glaring example of workers without union protection at the mercy of greedy employers and corrupt politicians. But this cycle can finally be broken if demands for change start to focus on workers’ right to form trade unions - see opinion column below.

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Non-Union Construction Co. is Demo Contractor on Collapsed Center City Building

The building collapse everyone should have seen coming.

After Bangladesh, labor unions can save lives

Non-Union Construction Co. is Demo Contractor on Collapsed Center City Building

By Joe Doc

PhillyLabor.com

June 5, 2013

UPDATE – 6 killed and several others critically injured.

The construction company contracted to do the demolition on the building that collapsed yesterday at 22nd and Market st. in center city Philadelphia, killing and critically injuring several others, was non-union construction company, Griffin Campbell Construction, located at 1605 Butler St. That North Philadelphia address is also the residence of Griffin T. Campbell, 49. Laborers on the demolition crew were also non-union workers.

Witnesses who saw the building prior to it’s collapse were reported to have been concerned enough about the building’s condition to express a desire to warn the people inside the Salvation Army Thrift Store, located adjacent to the collapsed building, but the building collapsed prior to being able to warn them.

Griffin Campbell Construction has city permits to demolish six other properties, including three other Market Street properties owned by STB Investments Corp., the owner of the collapsed building. The principal of STB is Richard Basciano.

It is unknown yet why the building’s owners chose to use a non-union company, whose owner has a criminal record, to do the demolition on the building but it is suspected that saving money was a possible motive. Just one question, what kind of savings is worth the lives of the 6 innocent people who were killed and the many more who were injured as a result of the collapse?

The building collapse everyone should have seen coming.

Helen Ubinas

June 6, 2013

Philadelphia Inquirer

AT 10:43 A.M. yesterday, a little bit of Bangladesh came to Philadelphia.

The scale of the carnage at 22nd and Market wasn't nearly the same. But it appears the blatant disregard for safety and the well-being of people inside the Salvation Army thrift shop sounds eerily reminiscent of the Rana Plaza garment factory.

The owner of the Bangladeshi factory attempted to escape the country, only to be arrested and forced to do a perp walk.

Meanwhile here, only time will tell what happens with the callous ineptitude exhibited by Griffin Campbell Construction.

Nothing about the deadly demolition of a blighted four-story building at the edge of downtown looked right. That's what the people who had watched it in the days and weeks before the collapse told me.

In fact, everyone I spoke with said something seemed off - way off.

Everyone, apparently, except the city that issued a demolition permit for a building owned by infamous king of porn and serial slumlord Richard Basciano. The permit was issued to Philadelphia architect Plato Marinakos for Griffin Campbell Construction - led by a demolition boss who in addition to a criminal record, also has a history of violations on other properties he's worked on.

Despite obvious red flags, the city is claiming everything was on the up and up, the demolition company had proper permits, the workers were certified, blah, blah, blah.

Continue Reading Here

After Bangladesh, labor unions can save lives

By Lance Compa

May 26, 2013

Washington Post

Lance Compa teaches international labor law at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 workers should be a pivot point for the global apparel industry, moving consumers to demand more accountability from brand-name companies that subcontract production to supply-chain factories around the world. Sadly, the history of workplace tragedies in so many of these factories suggests that after consumers in rich countries express horror and call for reforms, the demands for better worker protections die down and the marketplace for cheap apparel abides. But this cycle can finally be broken if demands for change start to focus on workers’ right to form trade unions.

In the wake of labor abuses and workplace tragedies exposed in the 1990s, many apparel brands created in-house social compliance functions and joined “multi-stakeholder groups” with detailed monitoring and certification programs. But the one-day visits and checklist-style monitoring routine in such efforts have not worked.

This is where workers’ organizing comes in. Social compliance monitors might visit once a year. Government inspectors might come once in 10 years from understaffed and underfunded labor ministries common to most developing countries. But a real trade union can provide the vigilance and voice that workers need for sustained decency at their place of employment, including a workplace that is not a death trap.

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