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Trade Unions Give Occupy Philly An Offer It Can't Refuse

 

With a $55 million construction contract “imminent” for Dilworth Plaza -- home since early October for Occupy Philadelphia – the city trade unions and those in Occupy Philly determined to hold-out in the Plaza have arrived at a showdown.

Everything in life is a dialogue with something, and that goes for the bottom-up/top-down dialogue known as the Occupy Movement. The Philadelphia Police are the well-armed arbiter in the middle of this dialogue with the city. The dialogue, however, just got more complicated with the entrance of the job-hungry trades union.

“We have a dilemma,” Pat Gillespie, head of the city Building and Construction Trades Council, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. While in “full sympathy” with Occupy Philadelphia on the larger economic fairness and justice issues, Gillespie said he and his union were determined to get to work on the 800 plus jobs in the Dilworth construction contract. Gillespie offered union workers to help Occupy Philly members move their belongings across the street to Thomas Paine Plaza – or wherever they might decide to move. The matter was to be taken up at the next Occupy Philly general assembly.

Occupy Philly candlelight vigil on Dilworth PlazaOccupy Philly candlelight vigil on Dilworth Plaza

On Wednesday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter posted an eviction order for Dilworth Plaza, citing the planned re-design project that the notice says is to start “imminently.” He ordered occupiers to leave the plaza “immediately.” The construction work is to be done by the Daniel J. Keating Company.

The $55 million project uses federal, state and other funds and is billed as a job stimulus project to last 27 months. The project has reportedly been planned for two years. It will feature a café, a market and skating rink in winter. The city’s promotional material claims 185,000 people live or work within a ten-minute walk of City Hall and will use the renovated public space. Critics say the $55 million should have been prioritized for low-income housing or other more needed projects.

A friend familiar with union issues in Philly said things could get dicey if the hold-out members of Occupy Philly don’t agree to move and allow the jobs-program to begin. Half-joking, he said trade unionists might turn on the occupiers and do their own “eviction.”

As for the police in the equation, last week, while at Occupy Philly one evening, I had an interesting conversation with some talkative police officers. A sergeant who told me he had been shot twice in the line of duty assured me cops were “part of the ninety-nine percent” that Occupy Philadelphia was so concerned about.

“I totally agree,” I said. “But the problem is then cops turn around and do the bidding of the one percent.”

Cops never feel comfortable debating citizens, so he didn’t dispute me. He certainly knew what I was talking about. The fact is, police officers, class issues aside, are about keeping order in the vertically organized hierarchy of control found in any major city in America. And if the order came down from the top, they'd go through Dilworth Plaza like Patton's "crap through a goose."

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