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Unions strike at Pennsylvania Convention Center

Four Philadelphia unions went on strike Thursday against the Pennsylvania Convention Center over a contract proposal regarding exhibitor's rights.

pennsylvania convention center The Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro

UPDATE: The strike came to an end Thursday night following hours of negotiations.

A source with knowledge of the proceedings said Pennsylvania Convention Center management and the striking labor unions reached a one-year agreement regarding exhibitor's rights.

ORIGINAL STORY: Four Philadelphia labor unions went on strike Thursday morning against the Pennsylvania Convention Center over proposed work rule changes they say will weaken union rights and cut members' hours.

The city carpenters, stagehands, teamsters and riggers unions initiated the strike around 9 a.m., setting up picket lines around the Center.

The Convention Center's 10-year Customer Satisfaction Agreement – which laid out what work exhibitors could undertake and what work required union labor, plus outlined standards for customer courtesy – expired in July, and talks between unions and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority board of directors to forge a new pact broke down Thursday.

At issue is a work rule change proposal by the PCCA board that unions say would "further weaken the unions' jurisdictional rights and erode work hours for their members."

Those on strike claim previous union concessions inside the Convention Center have already resulted in the most lenient exhibitor's rights in any such facility on the East Coast.

The strike comes during a time of ongoing tumult for the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

In the face of complaints over labor costs and disputes that some claim have discouraged conventioneers from returning to Philadelphia, the PCCA Board on June 5 voted to hire private management company SMG to take over some Convention Center operations in a bid to attract more exhibitors.

"It was this board's wise decision to bring in SMG, a capable, private management company," International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employee Local 8 business manager Michael Barnes said in a statement.

"SMG should now be given the chance to manage by taking an objective look at the standing Exhibitor Rights as previously agreed upon in the Customer Satisfaction Agreement.

"With the most flexible work rules in the industry and a well-respected private management firm on-board, the city is well-positioned to realize an increase in jobs and the transformation of the Convention Center into the economic engine of the entire region, as it was always intended to be."

The strike also comes just before the American Association of Diabetes Educators was supposed to hold a four-day convention starting Aug. 7 that was expected to draw 10,000 attendees and generate $23.4 million in local economic impact, according to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Philadelphia electricians union Local 98, which also operates inside the center, is not striking but is refusing to cross the other unions' picket line as a show of solidarity.

Negotiations between the striking labor unions and PCCA management were ongoing Thursday.

 
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