HIGH CONVENTION COSTS: It’s Contractors, Not Carpenters, To Blame

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UNION carpenters have been unfairly targeted as cause of high costs and disrupted service at Phila.'s troubled Penna. Convention Center. In reality, says Carpenters leader Ed Coryell, problems stem from elsewhere.

UNION carpenters have been unfairly targeted as cause of high costs and disrupted service at Phila.’s troubled Penna. Convention Center. In reality, says Carpenters leader Ed Coryell, problems stem from elsewhere.

BY JOE SHAHEELI/ Contrary to what the city’s main media have said, especially the Daily News, it is not the union carpenters who are responsible for making the Pennsylvania Convention Center an expensive proposition for those wishing to use its facilities.

Nor did the Daily News, as it researched for an abusive editorial, take the time to understand why Ed Coryell, president of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters of Philadelphia & Vicinity, “pulled out of talks over a new contract with the Center’s management and set up picket lines” just a day before a 4,000-attendee convention was to open up. In reality, the show in question wasn’t due to open until the Aug. 7. The exhibitors arrived earlier and a picket line did not halt the progress of the convention. The show was set up by union carpenters on schedule.

Daily News editors didn’t question why the Convention Board “agreed to postpone at least for a year any attempt to get the unions to agree to changes in the customer service agreement that governs how the workers interact with exhibitors and convention organizers.”

The Daily News complained the unions were given a 2.5% increase, stating the carpenters earned $77 an hour.

Had the editorial writers checked, they would have discovered the contract between the six unions and the Convention Board had expired Apr. 30. The unions agreed to three monthly voluntary extensions. Coryell noted, “It took all of May, June and July for the Convention Board to come up with a proposal and that came on Jul. 29. They had not attempted to negotiate with us on their proposals throughout the three-month period.”

He explained his carpenters do not make the $77 an hour charged by the Daily News. “We make $65 an hour — $39 in wages, and the rest in pension and health benefits. It is the contractors at the exhibits who charge as high as $150 an hour for each man-hour of wages given the union carpenters. That markup is obscene.”

ED CORYELL, head of Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, scores mistakes in press coverage of Convention Center's labor woes.

ED CORYELL, head of Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, scores mistakes in press coverage of Convention Center’s labor woes.

Elliott Lewis is the entity used by the Convention Center as payroll master for the unions. As a broker, it collects from the contractors and pays the union employees. Coryell notes contractors are “overchargers.”

“Those overcharges,” cites Coryell, “are blamed on us and the rest of the unions whose members work at the Convention Center.”

He also noted, “We had no way of negotiating the contract. After three months, it was sign this or go on strike.”

Coryell notes this city’s Convention Center has the most exhibitor-friendly conditions of any Convention Center on the East Coast, including Boston, Washington and New York. None of those cities allows exhibitors to use power tools or ladders or to build anything over 100 square feet.

“In Philadelphia, we allow exhibitors to erect and dismantle their exhibits up to a maximum of 300 square feet,” Coryell asserted.

He also added, “the last-minute contract revisions shown us would have eliminated this and allowed exhibitors to erect and dismantle with power tools and ladders regardless of exhibit size.”

After the one-day strike, Coryell noted, “We didn’t blink and they knew we were in the right. Now it is back to negotiations.” Coryell added, “We hope we don’t have to wait until next year to begin those negotiations. Let’s start now!”

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One Response to HIGH CONVENTION COSTS: It’s Contractors, Not Carpenters, To Blame

  1. Taken from the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Exhibitor Guidelines … I may not be a lawyer, but it sounds like they allow use of power tools from the given statement below:

    “The unpacking, assembling, dismantling, and packing of displays and equipment may be done by full-time employees of an exhibiting company. Exhibitors are allowed to set up and/or dismantle their own booths, provided that they use their own bona fide, full-time employees. It is acceptable for exhibitors to safely use power tools to set-up and/or dismantle their own booths.”

    Mike
    August 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

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