Convention Center Got Restraining Order Against Carpenters Union

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Members of Philadelphia’s carpenter’s union have been protesting outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center for months. On Saturday, the laborers took their message inside the center — directly to attendees of the Philadelphia Auto Show.

On that much, both sides agree. After that, there’s plenty of disagreement.

John J. McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, alleges that the 200-some-odd union members who entered the auto show were “disruptive” — vandalizing cars on display and acting belligerently.

“Some of them tried to intimidate our exhibitors,” McNichol said Monday morning.

Martin O’Rourke, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Council of Carpenters, rejected accusations of damage or bad behavior, saying the carpenters spent their time at the show “peacefully” handing out leaflets.

“No vandalism, no vandalism whatsoever,” O’Rourke said. “They were exerting their First Amendment right to protest. “

One fact not in dispute: On Sunday, a judge signed a restraining order commanding the union not to interfere with the show. Both sides stipulated to the order, which can be seen below (the order is erroneously dated 2014 rather than 2015).

Despite the incident, McNichol said, Saturday saw 60,000 people attend the auto show — its No. 1 attendance day ever. “This was far and away the smoothest show we’ve had,” he said.

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Korean Bribes Helped Build Convention Center, Feds Say

Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced it had seized $500,000 from former South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan. Obviously, there is a Philadelphia connection: The money seized from Chun was bribe money laundered through the Convention Center expansion.

Chun was South Korea’s president in the 1980s and owes the country $143.5 million from corruption during his time in office. He’s considered the country’s last military strongman. He was sentenced to death in the 1990s, but it was commuted.

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Union Protests Outside Convention Center — Without an Inflatable Rat!

Whoa! Carpenters Union Local 8 breaking out the big guns for the protest today. I always appreciate when unions mix it up and go with the “giant fat cat choking a worker” instead of the “terrifying giant inflatable rat.”

Big Sky Balloons created both Scabby the Rat and the fat cat character. The company has a whole line of inflatable protest balloons, including a cockroach, a greedy pig, a skunk, Cerberus and a border patrol agent.

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Should Union Workers Be Blamed for Big Markups at Convention Center?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The Inquirer reports that last week’s National Homeland Security Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center paid $152.25 per hour per union rigger — but that workers themselves earned $35.11 an hour of that total, “$59.70 with health insurance, pension, and union dues rolled in.”

While that’s still a pretty nice wage, it’s not $152.25. So what’s going on?

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Philadelphia Unions Quarrel Over New Convention Center Work Rules

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

While the day was subdued inside the Convention Center Monday, tensions between unions “erupted” outside, the Inquirer reports. The fracas started when leaders of IBEW Local 98, Laborers Local 332 and Stagehands Local 8 walked their workers into the Convention Center past a group of jeering Teamsters.

The dispute stems from new work rules at the Center, which told unions they had until Monday of last week to sign. Carpenters Local 8 and the Teamsters Local 107, didn’t, and are currently shut out of the process.

Teamsters picketed outside the Convention Center on Monday, leading to the Inquirer getting some fantastic quotes for the newspaper. Check out the war of words between IBEW Local 98 business manager John Dougherty and people from the Teamsters and Carpenters unions.

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A Primer on the Pennsylvania Convention Center Mess

Convention-Center

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.

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Here’s a Fix for Our Fiscal Woes: Hire Staples Management

Convention Center photo | Jeff Fusco. Staples photo | Shutterstock.com

Convention Center photo | Jeff Fusco. Staples photo | Shutterstock.com

I’m tired of hearing the Mayor and City Council complain about our city’s fiscal problems. I’m tired of listening to our state representatives, congressmen, and gubernatorial candidates complain, too. We all know there’s a simple fix to the problem. Just ask Staples.

The office supply store chain (which is also a client of mine) is now testing a pilot program so that customers can buy stamps and other postal supplies at their convenience instead of being forced to go to the post office during the day. This sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Not for everyone apparently. The American Postal Workers Union has staged national demonstrations in protest because Staples is training and supervising their own employees and not postal workers. By providing a less expensive, more convenient service for its customers, Staples is threatening the union.

We need more of this.

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