MTV’s selection of Philadelphia was accompanied by unbridled civic rejoicing when it was announced on Feb. 26. City leaders believed The Real World, with its huge audience of 12- to 34-year-olds, would boost the city’s cool factor and help it retain recent college graduates.
But within four days, Bunim/Murray had incurred the wrath of the city’s unions by hiring a nonunion company to renovate the former Seamen’s Church Institute in Old City, where Real World’s cast was to live.
The series had sidestepped organized labor in 13 previous cities, including union strongholds New York, Chicago, and Boston, without incident.
“Every other production company comes in, sits down and bargains,” said Tony Frasco, vice president of Teamsters Local 107, whose members drive vehicles and unload trucks. “The unions are not out to gouge anybody, but this is a union town.”
…Informed of Bunim/Murray’s pullout, Jeff Zeh, president of the Southeast Pennsylvania chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., which represents nonunion contractors, said, “What else is new in Philadelphia?
“You saw the list of the cities where they’ve produced their projects, and Philadelphia is the only one where they had a problem,” he said. “It is really is a sad commentary.”
“We ask for fair wages and benefits, and [then they] make a fuss and take their ball and go home – what kind of real world do they represent?” said Gillespie, of the Building Trades Council. “We’ll be called the Neanderthals and the pug uglies because of what we’re trying to do.”