The Chestnut Hill Monthly Meeting, a Quaker congregation building a new meetinghouse on Mermaid Lane, hired a non-union contractor for the job, which spurred anger not only from Philadelphia's building trades union but from progressive groups as well. The controversy was heightened by an act of vandalism at the construction site, where the cab of a crane was set on fire—allegedly by a pro-union faction.
Now the Quaker group has released a statement explaining how the decision to use a non-union contractor came about.
Though the Meeting's building committee started with the assumption that they'd use union labor for the project, members raised some concerns. First, they wanted to learn about the cost differential between union labor and non-union labor.
Second, a number of members, while acknowledging the significant advances in fair treatment of workers that had been achieved by the union movement, expressed specific concerns about the behavior of some Philadelphia building trade unions and recognized that there was a wide variety in the way that open-shop contractors treated their workers. In particular, concerns were raised about a lack of racial and gender equality in union hiring, as well as reports of the use of violence by some trade union members. The committee agreed to arrange for bids from both union and non-union contractors, and learned that the financial picture would hold more sway in making the decision. The full statement can be downloaded as a PDF here.