Ahead of Major Gathering, Strike Shuts Down Convention Center

AxisPhilly reports that — a week before a diabetes convention brings 10,000 people to town — the carpenter’s union at the Philadelphia Convention Center has gone on strike. The Teamsters are honoring the strike, meaning the center is effectively shut down, although unions for the electricians, riggers, laborers and stagehands have not yet joined the strike.

From AxisPhilly:

According to sources close to the talks, wages are not at issue. The board has put a decent wage-increase package on the table. But, the most forceful union – the carpenter’s – apparently is balking at the changes that center around the issue of “exhibitor rights.” This refers to a wide range of issues, including whether exhibitors can do any work as well as standards for customer courtesy.

The issue has been brewing for several years, during which the newly expanded Convention Center has been losing money. A 2011 report suggested that labor costs were the biggest reason for lost business at the center. “The state-ordered report made no outright recommendation about reducing the number of labor unions used to set up and break down convention and trade-show exhibits,” the Inquirer reported at the time. “It did, however, point out that no other facility has as many unions, with some engaging three or four at most.”

Union members were angry with that assessment. “For them to point to, and make, organized labor a scapegoat is a tragedy. It just demonstrates once again that people really don’t know the business they’re supposed to be in,” Pat Gillespie of the Building Trades Council told CBS3.

AxisPhilly adds:

Greg Fox, chairman of the center’s board of directors, responded with a formal statement, and said the strike came as a “complete surprise.”

“We encouraged union leadership to offer their own proposals on exhibitor rights but have received no response, which makes their decision to strike even more puzzling, especially since we remain in ongoing labor negotiations,” Fox said in the statement. “Our only concern is making the Center more competitive by providing customers and exhibitors with the same rights they have at peer facilities without impacting safety and security.”

Convention Center Expansion: A Dud and Embarrassment

Despite the Pennsylvania Convention Center website touting “the superb quality of the design aesthetic, detailed down to custom-designed carpets with 15 different geometric patterns,” the expanded state-owned Convention Center that opened in March 2011 isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. But the intention wasn’t to create a thing of great beauty; rather, it was to bring in significantly increased convention business, that would, in turn, grow hotel business and retail and restaurant as well. As a preview to the opening, the Philadelphia Inquirer asked a number of salient questions, some of them necessarily contradictory: Would all the taxpayer millions on the expansion be worth it in the end? Would there be enough hotels to fill the demand of increased conventioneers?

As Tom Ferrick points out in today’s column for AxisPhilly, worries about the latter question have turned out to be largely moot. He minces no words: “The newly expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center is turning out to be a dud. With a capital D-U-D.”

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What Happened at Day One of the Casino Hearings

Yesterday, during the first day of public hearings over Philadelphia’s second gaming license each of the six applicants appeared to have brought along their own distinct fan base.

The Inky breaks down the scene at the Convention Center:

  • “Employees of Joseph Procacci, the South Philadelphia produce wholesaler and lead investor behind Casino Revolution proposed for Pattison Avenue at Front Street, packed the audience with matching T-shirts and baseball caps.”
  • “Fans of developer Bart Blatstein, sponsor of the Provence casino, hotel and entertainment center proposed for North Broad Street, hailed him for a track record in turning around depressed neighborhoods.”
  • “Ken Goldenberg, the developer behind Market8 in Center City, won kudos from the Design Advocacy Group, a professional forum of urban planners and architects that voted his design and siting as having “the most going for it.”
  • “The African American Chamber of Commerce gave high marks to Goldenberg and Penn National Gaming, a rival applicant behind the Hollywood Philadelphia project on the 700 block of Packer Avenue, for working with minority businesses.”*
  • “And Steve Wynn got props from one of the biggest unions representing hospitality workers. Bob McDevitt, speaking for Local 54 of Unite Here, said Wynn’s casinos were known in the industry for good pay, health coverage, and retirement funds.”

The Live! proposal, meanwhile, had unionized employees from the Holiday Inn on Packer Ave disgruntled, as that hotel would be folded into the larger venue.

*This is ironic: At an earlier hearing I attended in February over the Penn National proposal, several City Council members criticized the group over minority hiring provisions.



Philadelphia Marathon Breaks Thanksgiving Tradition, Moves Date

The Inquirer reports that the Philadelphia Marathon is moving from Nov. 24 to Nov. 17, in order to accommodate the U.S. Green Building Council’s 2013 conference at the Convention Center. “This is a significant change. The Philadelphia Marathon and its accompanying races traditionally have been held the weekend before Thanksgiving, and many runners from the region who no longer live here take a few days off to run the race and visit family and friends over the holiday. …  The U.S. Green Building Council event is expected to generate $32.5 million in business for the region. The Philadelphia Marathon weekend generates $17.6 million.”

Black-Tie Tailgate for 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show

The Black-Tie Tailgate Preview Gala of the 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show was held Friday; benefitted the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Celebrating another successful event, which benefitted the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at CHOP, through the Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation, were Kevin Mazzucola, exec director of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, David A. Piccoli, division chief at CHOP, Steven Altschuler, CEO of CHOP, and Michael Chapman, chairman of the 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show.
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Romney Gets Chester County Sheriff to Slam Obama at Love Park

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh and Deputy Chairwoman of the state Republican Party Renee Amoore launched a preemptive verbal attack on President Barack Obama from Love Park on Monday. They did so on behalf of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who, apparently, wanted to call attention to President Obama’s record on women’s jobs ahead of the Philadelphia Women Vote 2012 Summit at the Convention Center this evening. The keynote speaker at the event will be Alicia Keys. Yeah, like, the singer. [Daily News]

Escape to Hawaii at the Philly Flower Show

Walking through the entrance, you are immediately confronted by a large structure that juts overhead. With flower-filled lattices and white, undulating screens that capture projections of ocean life, you feel as if you are under water—shadows of turtles and other animals swimming above—only to emerge, transported, into a cavernous space filled with exotic aromas, sounds and sights. This year’s Philadelphia International Flower Show, “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha,” is an overwhelming blend of extraordinary artistry, stunning micro-landscapes and fascinating oddities. Read more »

HughE Dillon: Flower Show Preview Party

Nearly 1,000 notables, dignitaries and socialites enjoyed the tropical paradise that is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at a preview party on Saturday. The theme of the 185th flower show—“Hawaii: Islands of Aloha”—was reflected well as the convention center was filled with an aroma of the islands, Polynesian dancers, storytellers, musicians, a 25-foot waterfall, and a new floor plan. Below: Eric Lochner, president, Global Talent Management at Kenexa, developer Carl Dranoff and Roberta Dranoff (both on the preview party committee), and Drew Becher, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

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