There was a violent incident this week in the parking lot behind King of Prussia Mall that I found particularly disturbing. As I understand it, when a crew of 5 steelworkers (non-union workers) in 2 construction trucks arrived from Lebanon around 7 AM on Wednesday to begin work at the new Toy R Us store, their entry was blocked by members of the Ironworkers Local 401. Instead of forcing through the picket line, they decided to call the police and wait nearby in the mall parking area.
Two or three minutes later, a black Chevy sedan pulled up and 4 men jumped out swinging baseball bats, yelling and shouting. Three of the men ran away but the other 2 run to get in each of the trucks. The attackers shattered the trucks rear windows with the bats. The steelworks jumped out of the trucks and tried to defend themselves but were no match for the 4 assailants who beat them with the bats. Although the men who were attacked did not tell police their attackers were union workers, they believe that to be the case.
The general contractor for the project, Kane Builders of Glenside says that the subcontractors on the site are both union and non-union. The site preparation subcontractor is union, as is the framing subcontractor. The ironworkers and masonry subcontractors are both non-union.
A representative for Ironworkers Local 401 are denying their members had anything to do with the attack. Their attitude is just because we picket the job site does not mean that we had anything to do with the altercation. Upper Merion Police have made no arrests in the case.
This would not be the first time there has been a serious union incident in the King of Prussia – Valley Forge area. Back in 1972, there was another incident of construction-union violence. On June 5, in 1072 about 1,000 men, many wearing hard hats, swarmed the construction site for a hotel and theater complex (now the Valley Forge Convention Center and a hotel). The union members stormed the Valley Forge site, overrunning a fence and destroying $400,000 worth of equipment and materials. There were 16 union members convicted and 11 jailed in that union incident.
Here we are nearly 40 years later. Times are difficult . . . people are out-of-work and desperate . . . but what can possible by gained by this level of violence?