"This meeting of EPIC [Eastern Pennsylvania Ironworkers Cabal] will come to order," said the organization's consiglieri and security chief, W. Henry McCarty Jr.
"These are the times that try men's soles," he said, displaying the bottom of his shoe, which showed the effects of stomping a scab earlier that day. "She just wouldn't stay down. She was one of those 94-percenters," he said, pointing to a chart showing that less than 6 percent of Americans now belong to labor unions.
"As you know, we're getting a lot of bad press over what happened to our THUGS people at Local 401 in Philly," McCarty said. "So without further ado, I'd like to introduce EPIC President Bugsy Phelloni to discuss what we're going to do about it."
"Thanks, Billy the Kid," said Phelloni.
"What we have here is the overzealous prosecution of noble people," Phelloni said. "Sometimes these feds make Kathleen Kane [not a fictional name] look meek. Anyhow, our Local 401 friends, who call themselves THUGS, which is short for The Helpful Union Guys, are being pushed around just for trying to protect their jobs."
Phelloni held up a stack of newspaper clippings about federal charges against the real Ironworkers Local 401 President Joseph Dougherty and his "goon squad," accused of bashing in adversaries' heads and faces with baseball bats or crowbars, destroying a Quaker meetinghouse being built by nonunion people, and taking other steps to forestall the threat of making anyone compete for a job. An indictment said they orchestrated a criminal conspiracy to use sabotage, extortion and other methods to force contractors to use union workers.
"This whole indictment is a political ploy," Phelloni said. "So I have asked our political expert, Don Vito Corpuscle, to say a few words about that."
"Tanks, Bugsy," said Corpuscle. "It is distressing that this comes from the feds now that we have a Democrat in the White House. Generally, we have the Democrats in our pockets, but now and then they make a little noise to keep the Republicans from raising a stink."
Some of the Ironworkers leaders started criticizing Corpuscle for not using his influence with politicians and judges to help them more. "Listen," he said. "What we have to do is to support some powerful Republicans to get them on our side."
"Hey, if I start making $2 million payments to this or that top Republican in Pennsylvania every week," objected Scarface Al Kapain, "in a few years I'll be broke."
"Nobody says you have to do that, Al," said Corpuscle. "We'll just raise union dues or raid the pension funds, and if anybody squawks, there's always the crowbars."
"Be careful with that," warned Auntie Maim, Phelloni's girlfriend. "Don't forget that our international Ironworkers president, Jake West [not fictional], went in the can after he and other Ironworkers officials got convicted in a pension fund scandal."
"You're right, Maim," said EPIC adjutant Lucky Lucipher, "but a pension fund scam can work great. Much of Vegas was built with the help of America's greatest union boss, Jimmy Hoffa [not fictional, alas], and the pension money he looted." At the mention of that name, everybody stood up and put a hand over his or her heart.
"The good news," added Lucipher, "is that we Ironworkers leaders know how to take care of our heroes. Even when West was in prison for ripping off our members' pensions, we arranged for him to get a pension of $19,250 a month for life."
McCarty offered an alternative. "We don't have to loot our guys' pension fund," he said. "If we get politicians in line, we can stick it to the taxpayers. Who do you think is paying for Allentown's hockey arena?"
"Good point," said Lucipher.
"So it's agreed," said Phelloni. "Grease the top dogs of both parties, and there will be the peace. Also, they'll keep Pennsylvania as one of the states that reject those nasty right-to-work laws, which make it easier for nonunion schnooks to get our jobs."
EPIC lobbyist Mark E. Dassahd rose to make a point about that. "Keeping out right-to-work laws is essential for us," he said. "Such laws make it impossible to exclude nonunion workers from taxpayer-funded projects like the arena, and we'd be unable to force workers who are not in our union to pay our union dues.
McCarty agreed, pointing out that crowbars and baseball bats might become less effective if EPIC and THUGS suddenly had to deal with the 94 percent of Americans who do not belong to labor unions.
"We need to follow the lead of the teachers unions," he said. "You know the percentage of public school teachers in Allentown who are not in a union? It's zero, and taxpayers are forced to pay them up to $84,840 a year, although the average is only $64,600, with 12 weeks of paid vacation."
Phelloni called for the meeting to be adjourned on a happy note. "Goon squads will rule forever," he promised.
So in the future, if you go to a hockey game in that arena, or just drive by, think about how it was built by Ironworkers, but not Local 401, and the progress it signifies. Someday, labor union members, whose bosses control many of our politicians, may represent as much as 7 percent of the population.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays