Carpenters promise another protest at Convention Center

Two unions - the carpenters and the Teamsters - say they have been unfairly shut out of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Two unions - the carpenters and the Teamsters - say they have been unfairly shut out of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (Inquirer, file)
Posted: July 26, 2014

Tensions are mounting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where protesting union carpenters - excluded, unfairly they say, from working at the complex - plan another big protest Friday morning.

The protests are continuing as:

A rival union accuses leaders of the carpenters union of hypocrisy in mounting the protests, since members of that union daily cross the protest line to work in the center. Although the carpenters union no longer has jurisdiction to set up conventions, six union carpenters employed by a maintenance firm do repair work in the center.

Some of the 8,000 postal workers attending the National Association of Letter Carriers union convention at the center joined the carpenters in their protest outside the building Thursday. Inside, an individual delegate, at an open-mike session, led attendees in a cheer of support for the carpenters.

The Convention Center Authority Board will have its monthly meeting Friday morning. Unknown is whether Ed Coryell Sr., a board member and also the head of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, will attend.

The dispute between the Convention Center and two unions - the carpenters and Local 107 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters - heightened when leaders of the two unions failed to sign a new Customer Satisfaction Agreement by the May 5 deadline imposed by Convention Center management.

The two unions signed a few days later, but their work had already been split among the four other unions that had been working in the center and earlier signed the agreement.

"The carpenters' leadership willingly chose not to sign a new labor agreement by the deadline, a deadline that the carpenters' leader, Ed Coryell, was well-aware of as a sitting member of the Convention Center's board," said John McNichol, chief executive of the center.

Accusing the carpenters of hypocrisy was Michael Barnes, who leads one of the four unions still working at the center.

"I'm highly offended that the carpenters . . . have characterized my union members as scabs, while their own members walk past the [protest] line to go to work," said Barnes, head of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 8.

"That's nonsense," countered carpenters' spokesman Martin O'Rourke. Barnes' union, he said, "is benefiting from the lockout. His guys are stealing [carpenters'] work." O'Rourke said the carpenters who handle repairs at the center are governed by a contract with a different set of employers. "That contract is not in dispute," O'Rourke said.

O'Rourke said management should allow all the carpenters back in the center. "Why continue with this disruption and protest?" he asked. "It's not good for business in Philadelphia."

The National Association of Letter Carriers convention, is one of the city's largest conventions this year, with Philadelphia chosen, in part, because its Convention Center is unionized.

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which had estimated 12,000 would attend, generating $24.8 million in economic impact, now says 8,000 attendees will generate $13.6 million in economic impact.


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen

www.inquirer.com/jobbing

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