NLRB says it lacks jurisdiction in unions' battle with Convention Center

Members of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters hold a protest rally outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center protest at N. Broad St. at Arch on Friday morning July 11, 2014. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Members of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters hold a protest rally outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center protest at N. Broad St. at Arch on Friday morning July 11, 2014. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 16, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled against union carpenters and Teamsters barred from working at the Convention Center.

The order, issued Monday by the Philadelphia regional office of the NLRB, dismissed the unions' complaints that the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority had engaged in unfair bargaining. Signed by regional director Dennis P. Walsh, the order said the NLRB had no jurisdiction over the case because the National Labor Relations Act, which it enforces, does not apply to the Convention Center Authority, a public entity.

It did say the unions provided evidence "supporting findings that the authority acted in derogation of bargaining obligations" that would be covered by the National Labor Relations Act if the authority were covered by the law.

The decision "affirms our position that these charges were not appropriately before the NLRB, lacked merit, and that the authority acted fairly and within the law as it applies to the center," said Gregory Fox, chairman of the authority's board. "There was no conclusion that the center acted in violation of its legal obligations."

The Carpenters had another interpretation.

"The NLRB decision simply states that they have no jurisdiction in this matter," said Martin O'Rourke, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters.

"The facts of the Carpenters' complaint were not rejected," he said. "The Carpenters will immediately file an unfair labor practices complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and will continue to protest their unjust and unfair lockout."

Teamsters leader William Hamilton was not immediately available for comment.

In their separate charges filed with the NLRB on May 12, the unions accused the center's management of unfair bargaining by imposing a 24-hour signing deadline.

After months of bargaining, the six unions that had worked at the center were given until May 5 to sign a new customer-satisfaction agreement.

The agreement was designed to streamline operations in response to complaints that conventions were bypassing the center because labor costs were too high, primarily due to inefficiencies in how the six unions installed and dismantled shows.

Four of the six unions signed the new agreement by May 5; the carpenters and Local 107 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters did not. They contended they had until May 10 to sign, a contention disputed by Convention Center management. Both unions signed May 9.

Meanwhile, work they had done was divided among the other unions and the center's staff.

Fox said the new rules "are already delivering the intended results, with two new major conventions signed, bringing 14,000 attendees, $35 million in economic impact, and 30,000 union man-hours at the center."

Monday's NLRB ruling addressed the complicated employment situation at the center. The authority owns the center but hired SMG, a West Conshohocken firm, to manage it. Union labor at the center was employed by a labor broker, Elliott-Lewis Corp.

SMG and Elliott-Lewis are for-profit firms covered by the National Labor Relations Act. But the NLRB ruled that the authority, a public entity not covered by the act, was the party on the other side of the bargaining table.


>Inquirer.com

To read the NLRB order dismissing the unions' complaint, go to www.inquirer.com/

dismissal


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

www.inquirer.com/jobbing

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