by Jonathan Vatner | January 01, 2004
Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center might be over its labor pains, thanks to a new agreement implemented in October between the center and unions.
   The pact unites the six unions that work at the center. In addition, David Gentile was named the new director of labor services, tasked with stopping union infighting that drove up costs and drove away events. 
   Center and local tourism officials are hoping this new initiative will keep the peace while they lobby for public funding to expand the facility.
   Workers now perform each other’s tasks, exhibitors do some of their own set-up and planners now order labor through Philadelphia-based contractor Elliott-Lewis.
   “For those who have perceived Philadelphia as the last place they want to come to conduct business,” Gentile said, “we’re changing that.” 
   Elliott-Lewis’ vice president of corporate development, Jim Gentile (no relation to David), said exhibitors now save money because the unions work together. “Show contractors are getting an immediate benefit,” he noted.
   David Gentile said his next job is to change perceptions. He offered a vision of a kinder, gentler Philly, which supporters hope will get the state legislature to approve funding for a proposed center expansion as early as this month. 
   “The center board is happy with the labor agreement,” said John Perzel, Philadelphia congressman and speaker of the house for Pennsylvania. 
   The response among planners has been mixed. Some believe exhibitors are saving money; others contend labor at the center is still too costly.
   “They have a good plan in place, but it’s going to take a while for them to get it running smoothly,” said Chrissy Hart, director, conference and exhibits, for the Alexandria, Va.-based International Association of Chiefs of Police.