by Michael J. Shapiro | May 16, 2014
In an open letter yesterday to Pennslvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and 10 other local officials, the leaders of the four labor unions currently working at the Pennsylvania Convention Center expressed their full support for the convention center board. "We are writing to the respective appointing authorities who select the members of the Center's Board of Directors," the letter reads, "to share our support for the new work rules and customer rights as contained in the recently ratified Customer Satisfaction Agreement."

The four unions that signed the agreement and sent yesterday's letter are Local 8 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 332 of the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 405 of the International Association of Iron Workers. The two unions that did not sign the agreement by the May 5 deadline, Teamsters 107 and Carpenters Local 8, attempted to deliver the signed agreement on May 9. They have been ousted by the board and their work responsibilities were redistributed among the other four unions. The two ousted unions have since claimed they believed they had until May 10 to sign, when their contracts expired.

However, in the open letter to officials, the four signing unions refer to the "clearly delineated, explicit deadline of May 5 at 11:59 p.m. for signature by the respective union leadership. There was no mistaking the deadline for when this agreement needed to be approved, particularly since the Board of Directors of the convention center were scheduled to meet on the morning of Tuesday, May 6th to approve the agreement."

The signatories then call out Carpenters Local 8 as the cause for the convention center's labor union perception problems: "We believe [the new work agreement] is the only way to shift the  negative perception that customers have about doing business at the Center - a perception we believe is largely the result of the actions and behavior of one union and is unfairly attributed to all unions who have worked at the Center. We also believe that the agreement represents the best interests of our union members. While we did make some concessions, in the long run enabling the Center to compete more effectively for convention and trade show business in a very competitive industry market will bring in additional customers, creating more work hours for our members."

What's more, the letter states, the rules will make the convention center more competitive, and result in more bookings and thus more work for Philadelphia's toursim and hospitality industry. And the four union leaders say they are fully committed to making the new work rules a success: "As a demonstration of our commitment, each of our unions have pledged not to file any work grievances or initiate labor disputes for at least six months, because we want to allow for sufficient time needed to amicably work through issues for the betterment of the Center."

The letter came one day after the general vice president of the Iron Workers District, Stephen Sweeney, expressed solidarity with the ousted unions and insisted the iron workers would not do any work that had been done by the carpentry union members. However, the Iron Workers Local 405 leader, Samuel Malone, was one of the four signatories of yesterday's letter. "This is an internal thing that we will discuss," Sweeney told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I am the vice president for this region, and I speak for the iron workers." Malone and his officers were unanimously reelected by the local union Wednesday night, according to the Inquirer.