University “Ratted” Out by International Union


Photo Courtesy of Kevin Gamgort

Elizabeth Gregory

An inflatable rat appeared at the intersection of Lancaster and Ithan Avenue on Monday. The next day, another inflatable was placed across the street with a large cat adorned in business attire and choking a construction worker. 

These purposeful demonstrations were highly visible and drew immense attention to passerbys and those walking around campus. 

The purpose of these puzzling balloons was to protest against the University for hiring construction workers who are not members of labor unions.

Beginning on Monday morning, representatives from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades stood in front of the inflatable rat and cat at the Lancaster Ave. light and distributed handouts.

“The Administrators of Villanova have decided to attack their neighbors wages and benefit standards to build their dorms, making it difficult for area families to send their children to Villanova,” the handout reads. “Villanova has hired an irresponsible Painting Contractor who attacks local families by not paying the area standards. Is this the Augustinian example that Villanova teaches its students or is it the cutthroat business that puts the bottom line ahead of local families and children?”

The handout also provided contact information for Steven Hildebrand, the University’s Director of Engineering and Construction, and encouraged students and campus visitors to contact him and ask that these practices be changed.

Jonathan Gust, Director of Media Relations, and Hildebrand provided a statement in response to the protest: “When selecting the best partners for its construction projects, Villanova University uses a competitive bidding process— which includes and encourages participation from union contractors and sub-contractors,” the statement said. “Our decisions in this process reflect a commitment to the Augustinian Catholic mission and values of Villanova University. We ensure that all workers on our projects receive a just wage and benefits package.”

The statement went on to lay out the University’s obligations to exercise financial responsibility.

“Villanova also has a fiduciary responsibility to prudently manage our financial resources and make decisions that are in the best interest of the University and the people it serves,” the statement read. “Over the course of the many phases of this project, the majority of workers have been from union trades.”

Tuesday morning, an inflatable cat was displayed on the other side of Ithan Ave. opposite the original rat. Contracting companies took credit for displaying both the rat and newer cat inflatables on the corner of Ithan Ave.

Both inflatables had been taken down by Tuesday afternoon.

The University’s construction project began in January 2017. The project includes the building of the Lancaster Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, Senior Residences and Performing Arts Center, as well as the construction of the Finneran Pavilion and Mendel Field.