The giant inflatable rat at the edge of the Nature Trail is no longer, after negotiations between local trade unions and the United States Golf Association (USGA) ended in agreement.
The rat has symbolized the discontent of the local carpenters’ and stage hands’ labor unions, who began protesting the USGA near Featherbed Field on March 25. Protestors lined the lower section of the trail for weeks, usually staying until 3 or 4 p.m.
In preparation for the US Open, which will be held from June 10-16 at the Merion Golf Club, the USGA hired California-based contractor Classic Tents to construct large white luxury tents for spectator use.
Shawn Anderson, a member of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, said that the USGA was violating the area’s set wages and standards by not using local labor. Anderson made clear that the protest held on Haverford’s campus was not a dispute over union versus non-union labor. Instead, he said workers hired to build the tent should be from the surrounding area, rather than from out-of-state.
“We want to protect the area’s standards for wages and benefits that have been established by our Council,” Anderson said, “through years of struggles and negotiations over the course of the last 100 years.”
Dick Wynn, Vice President for Finance & Administration for the College, says the USGA has been contracting Classic Tents for years and that “they know what they’re doing. If the USGA got local labor for this, they’d be starting again from scratch.”
When asked if the College has any requirements for wage standards for on-campus projects, Wynn pointed to the policy set by the Board of Managers.
“We bid union and merit shop, and take the lowest bids,” he said. “So we see the carpenters’ out [protesting] on Lancaster any time we’re building on campus. We’ve often had non-union labor or mixed labor – the difference in price is so substantial.”
According to Philly.com, the two unions entered into negotiations with the USGA during the week of April 1 and reached an agreement on April 12. The paper reported hat 40 local carpenters would be hired to assemble the 160,000 square feet of flooring in the tent area, while stagehands would be responsible for setting up entertainment equipment such as speaker systems and projection screens.
However, Classic Tents will continue to construct the white tents, which union spokesman Ed Coryell Jr. told Philly.com “was a tough pill to swallow.” While not completely satisfied with this arrangement, the labor unions have agreed to these terms, since Coryell said the unions had “got to a point where were losing work every day.”