A hotel development company accused a Philadelphia-based trade union Monday of using a drone to intimidate workers due to the company’s workplace representation policy.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 used its drone to fly around a nonunion construction site. The Wankawala Organization is refurbishing a historic city hotel on the site. Chief Executive Officer of the company Mihir Wankawala was sent a link to the video by a friend.
“I guess they were trying to show their power,” Wankawala told Heat Street in a Monday post. “I’m the new kid on the block. This is my first project [in Philadelphia]. I think they were trying to send a message that you have to use union labor to get your project done.”
The Wankawala Organization has an open-shop policy, which doesn’t require workers to be in a union.
The drone peered into the windows of the hotel after rising above a crowd of union protestors. The video was first posted Feb. 4 to Youtube.
“IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia is flying high,” Local 98 wrote. “The union is using drones to record footage from high above targeted work sites. Local 98 has three drones to check on construction sites and to film 98’s own picket lines and protests to protect the union from false claims against it. It’s plane ingenious.”
Local 98 also claimed Feb. 12 the video was to identify unlicensed workers and illegal immigrants. It then handed over any footage of unauthorized workers to the proper authorities. The union was later forced to reverse this excuse after the advocacy group Juntos accused it of racial profiling, the Philadelphia Media Network reports.
“In some way, the union will use those images to intimidate those workers,” Philadelphia Construction Attorney Wally Zimolong told Heat Street. “No one wants to be the subject of an edited video that makes them look incompetent or unsafe or unskilled. Employers, developers, contractors, etc., have similar concerns that they will be portrayed as unskilled, unsafe, incompetent and unsympathetic.”
Local 98 bought three drones for $10,000 and plans to buy another. The union did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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