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How Banks and Politicians Let One Company Come Back from the Dead to Keep Abusing Workers

One sweatshop steel company endangered workers, stiffed creditors, got government contracts--and when caught, simply wiped its slate clean with bankruptcy.

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The Iron Workers also fault Huntington for being slow to come calling for the equipment, taking months being recently forcing it to be auctioned off. During the same period of time, according to a union tally, the bank filed for foreclosures on over 400 homes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. “Every day the banks are evicting homeowners and throwing them out on the street,” says Rink, “and they’re allowing this guy to continue his business, because he has LLC after his name…You put a family out on the street, but you let somebody like Ed Wilhelm maintain his business and maintain his $700,000 home.”

Despite bankruptcy, the Wilhelm family has no cash flow crisis. Despite the workers’ strike and the Allegheny County Council’s stand, contractors continued working with the Wilhelm family, and other local governments continued to send taxpayer-funded work their way. Meanwhile, three years after he and Oo began their strike, Hand says no current employees will talk to him. Based on his own experiences, and his conversations with ex-employees, Hand says, “everybody in there is scared to death to even mention the word union.”

Given how kind bankruptcy – as well as big contractors and local governments – have been to the Wilhelm family, Rink expects the bankruptcy cycle to continue: “I guess he’ll do this again in another year or two.”



Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He worked as a union organizer for five years. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.