If you’re confused about the union protests at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, you’re not alone. So let’s break it down.
There are six unions that work at the Convention Center: carpenters, teamsters, riggers, stagehands, laborers and electricians. Of those six, two of them (the Carpenters and Teamsters) did not sign a revised Customer Satisfaction Agreement, which contains new rules governing the unions’ work at the Center. Some of the terms of the agreement were favorable to the unions, it seems, such as 3 percent pay raises for 10 years.
Other terms look less favorable, perhaps. For instance, exhibitors have been granted new leeway in setting up. As long as they use full-time employees (unionized or not) and don't go beyond 600 square feet, exhibitors can assemble booths themselves, and even use "uncomplicated" power tools. That's a big change.
But, as the Inquirer's Jane M. Von Bergen points out, "If the setup is complicated and large, the center's union workforce must do it."
Local 8 of the Carpenters union were not impressed by the new terms, went on strike briefly, and didn't end up signing the document. Without a signature, their contract at the Convention Center expires May 10. Tomorrow.
The head of Local 107 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, William Hamilton, says they dealt with scheduling issues but that they're ready to sign the document now. He also had this spicy tidbit for Von Bergen:
"The building trades eat their young," Hamilton said. "They beat the hell out of each other every day. We're not part of that crazy stuff. We go in and unload the trucks and leave."
Von Bergen wrote that if the Carpenters and Teamsters don't come back, "the center also benefits, because most of the other trades earn less." How much less?
Joe DiStefano detailed how much each local is paid. In terms of hourly base wages:
Electricians (IBEW) $47.79
Riggers (Ironworkers) $35.11
Though it's technically down to the wire for the Carpenters Union, don't count them out. It's pretty hard to imagine that a labor force that does so much work at the Convention Center would end up excluded from the project. The Philadelphia tea leaves tell me that all six unions will work at the center for the next 10 years.