Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Barely Human(itarians): Food Not Bombs

It may seem counter-intuitive to criticize a charitable organization, particularly one aimed at feeding the city's many homeless. But that's what makes Food Not Bombs and its informal President so reprehensible. Food Not Bombs doesn't feed the homeless, but rather exploits the homeless in an effort to make loosely related political statements.

Recently the organization has been asked to discontinue its feedings in front of the Family Court Building and 20th and Vine, an action FNB immediately used to slander the city, claiming prioritizing tourism was a soulless act. 

The decision had nothing to do with tourism. The truth of the matter is the city has no way of insuring that the feedings are safe because FNB refuses to get a permit, which they proudly profess on their website:

We refuse to get a permit for our servings; we believe nobody needs permission to share food with those in need.

If you're sitting in your dorm smoking pot, this premise might sound nice enough, but this permit is required for any large gatherings in a public park from protests to family reunions.

The group's motives don't sound quite as idealistic when you consider they admittedly parade the homeless in an effort to protest issues entirely unrelated to hunger, including funding for the police department. 

Most recently the group, along with Occupy Philadelphia, protested the opening of the Barnes Museum. Only they weren't protesting the same drama the museum is accustomed to, they were protesting the gala itself. 

Somehow philanthropy is now sinful. As those who helped bring one of the world's most astonishing museums to the Parkway dined (with the proper permits from the city), the FNB and Occupy Philadelphia illegally fed a line of homeless across the street in an attempt to gross everyone out.

Again, there isn't anything inherently wrong with feeding the homeless, if you are genuinely dedicated to helping the homeless. But 20th and Vine is only equipped to exploit the homeless and there is nothing humane about that. 

There are no public facilities, it is no where near a shelter, and FNB is affiliated with no organizations that attempt to rehabilitate the homeless. FNB feeds them, makes what they perceive to be a point, and then releases them to sleep along the Vine Street Expressway, Sister Cities Park, or the steps of the library. 

FNB is a Homeless Advocacy Group in every sense of the phrase, literally advocating for homelessness. 

Should we just be a city of satiated homeless? Should we snub grant money and donations earmarked for museums and fountains because one group thinks it's better to spent elsewhere? Remember when volunteering or donating to a charitable organization was a good thing? Remember when it was politically correct to be happy? 

We can't help everybody, and we certainly can't help them by dwelling on the fact that the most obvious improvements are going to be those that make the biggest tax payers happy to live here.  

Protesting a fundraiser that helped bring priceless art into the eyes of millions of Philadelphians who would never otherwise see such a space, that is a soulless act. Using the homeless - living people - to make that point, that is barely human. 

There are hundreds of charitable volunteer organizations in the city dedicated to helping the homeless, most of which not only feed them, but offer them the tools to feed themselves. FNB is associated with none of these.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Philly Bully

Welcome to Philadelphia, where the cost of fair business ends in fist fights, loose asbestos, and bottles of urine. At least that's what Philadelphia Building Trades Union would like developers to think. Philadelphia's union muscle has been a notorious thorn in the real estate market since their mid-century heyday, but unwavering support may not be as stable as most perceive. The reality of it all, which is increasingly evident, is that these unions are dealt with as a necessary evil. Developers either try to fly below their radar or are wealthy enough to afford them. However they're dealt with, picket signs and protest are routine.

 But that might be changing. Instead of ignoring the tactics employed by this union, which have included vandalism, slander, and even threats towards relatives, Post Brothers has charged at them head first. Post Brothers seemed content allowing the police to deal with much of the union member's illegal behavior, that is until a call placed to Councilman Kenny led L&I to shut down the site. Apparently some people were suspicious that employees were not being paid fairly. 

Councilman Kenny, I feel that some city employees are overpaid. Where is the investigation on my behalf?

Michael Pestronk of Post Brothers accused Councilman Kenny of spot zoning and caving to political pressure, an accusation that the mayor's office denied. 

Mayor Nutter's office might want to choose teams more wisely. Post Brothers will be going before Judge Leon Tucker with enough surveillance footage, photographs, and falsified propaganda to make anyone teamed up with this union look like they work for the mob.

Post Brothers posted their own side of the story, comparing statistics on their own business practices to the union's. Some of the facts may surprise you. They also posted their surveillance videos and a number of slanderous and threatening fliers distributed throughout the city.  

Here are some facts you may have thought you already knew:

  • 75% of Post Brothers employees reside and pay taxes in Philadelphia.
  • 70% of Building Union's workforce lives outside Philadelphia County, including Delaware and New Jersey

  • 65% of Post Brothers employees are minorities, representative of the city's 55%.
  • 91% of Carpenter Union members are white.

  • Post Brothers employs 2% more union members than the average percentage of building union members employed in Philadelphia.