Broken alliance?

Posted: July 25, 2014

FOR WEEKS, the Carpenters and Teamsters unions have been protesting in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, pumping their signs in the air that read, "Shame on you!" and "End the lockout."

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, in town for a convention, joined the picket line yesterday. It would seem to be a growing sign of solidarity against the convention center's big bosses. The Teamsters and Carpenters have been barred from working there since they failed to sign a contract by May 5.

But inside the center, a six-man maintenance crew of unionized carpenters is working and getting paid.

Michael Barnes, president and business manager of IATSE Local 8, representing Stagehands, said the maintenance crew has been working steadily in the building since before demonstrations began in early May.

"I find it the height of hypocrisy that the leadership of the Teamsters and Carpenters could challenge the Stagehands and the other union members for reporting to work when it's exactly what their members are doing," he said.

According to Barnes, the customer satisfaction agreement doesn't cover work done by the cleaning department, housekeeping functions, food-service workers, IT people and maintenance workers. They work under a separate contract.

"It sends a message to me that the leadership of the two unions who chose not to sign the [customer satisfaction agreement] do not have clear objectives in regards to what they're trying to accomplish, did not have clear objectives at the bargaining table, went on strike, and as a result their members are suffering."

Marty O'Rourke, a spokesman for the striking Carpenters, said the six-member crew inside has nothing to do with the current labor dispute.

"Shame on him," he said. "Mike Barnes is part of the lockout forces. His work is grabbing the work of other union members."

Barnes claims that since the onset of the new contract, bookings at the center have increased and repeat customers are now part of the equation.

"They were given a deadline, they chose not sign," said John McNichol, the center's CEO.

"Their interest only started after they saw the other unions had not only signed the deal, but were willing to do the work the Carpenters abandoned. This has hardly been said yet."

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