Updated 2:11 p.m. PST: Carpenters Local 8 and Pennsylvania Convention Center are extending the collective bargaining agreement until May 10.
1:35 p.m. PST: After picketing on May 1 due to failed contract renegotiations, about 200 Carpenters Local 8 members agreed to return to work the next day on the condition that any contract agreement would apply retroactively, only to be met with police removing them from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The dismissal of a tentative agreement reached at 1:30 a.m. on May 1 between Carpenters Local 8 and officials from Pennsylvania Convention Center along with its management, SMG, immediately sent the Carpenters picketing at 2 p.m. that day.
Expected to be finalized on May 2 at noon, the tentative contract was rejected by the Customer Satisfaction committee, part of the convention center’s board of directors, after a series of meetings between representatives from both sides, including Carpenters Secretary-treasurer Ed Coryell Sr.; Bob McClintock, senior vice president of convention centers for SMG; and John McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“We went on strike May 1. We set up picket lines, but around 10 at night, I received calls from people in state government asking if I could come back to work retroactively, and I said okay,” explained Coryell.
“We called John [McNichol] and Bob [McClintock] and told them we’d go back to work. There was a call for 200 to do teardown at a show on May 2. We went to work, and they had the police remove us from the building.”
The Carpenters were needed onsite to dismantle booths for the 2014 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, which ends May 3. There is no word yet on how this will be handled.
Now both sides are back at the bargaining table with their lawyers to resolve the contract dispute primarily focused on work-rule changes allowing exhibitors to use power tools and doubling the space in which an exhibitor could erect a booth without assistance from Carpenters.
“They wanted [this space] to go up to 600 square feet. It’s currently 300 square feet. We would lose 40 percent of man hours or higher. We will try to cooperate, but we can’t give up half our jobs. I have no intention of doing that,” Coryell stated. “We have more liberal rights in Philadelphia for exhibitors compared to venues we compete with in Washington, D.C. and New York.”
After Pennsylvania Convention Center and its management countered that the work-rule changes would attract more tradeshows to Philadelphia and, in turn, more work for the Carpenters, Coryell kept his position, remembering concessions the Carpenters gave up in the past that didn’t benefit them.
“Eleven years ago, when we first signed our Customer Service Agreement, we gave up overtime before 8 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. We don’t get overtime until after 8 hours. We were told if we gave in, it would be more cost-effective and bring more work to Philadelphia,” he said.
Carpenters Local 8’s contract expired Apr. 30. Pennsylvania Convention Center is also home to five other unions, which were also taking part in the negotiations. Since each union has different contract expiration dates and other retroactive agreements with the venue, only the Carpenters went on strike. The Riggers for instance couldn’t strike, according to Coryell, because their contract doesn’t end until July. He also added that the Laborers Union signed retroactively, and they didn’t honor the picket line the Carpenters established.
Calls to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Office of the Mayor – City of Philadelphia have yet to be returned.
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