by Michael J. Shapiro | June 01, 2014
A new customer satisfaction agreement has been signed by four unions working at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. Despite controversy over two unions that did not sign the agreement, the move is the latest positive step taken by the venue and its recently named management company, SMG, to improve the center's reputation and correct negative perceptions of its labor force.

In May, venue leadership presented six labor unions with the agreement, which outlined more client-friendly work rules. Two union chapters -- Carpenters Local 8 and Teamsters 107 -- refused to sign by the May 5 deadline. The center then divvied up those unions' responsibilities among the four chapters that did sign. The carpenters and Teamsters have since filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming they believed they had until the end of their contracts -- May 10 -- to sign, and that the PCCA had negotiated in bad faith.

In an open letter on May 15 to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and 10 other local officials, the leaders of the four labor unions still working at the center stated, "We...share our support for the new work rules and customer rights as contained in the recently ratified Customer Satisfaction Agreement," affirming that the May 5 deadline had been "clearly delineated" by the venue's management.

The four unions that signed the agreement were 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. They called out Carpenters Local 8 in the letter: "We believe [the new 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."

The letter arrived one day after the general vice president of the regional Iron Workers District, Stephen Sweeney, expressed solidarity with the ousted unions and insisted the iron workers would not do any of the carpentry union's work. However, the city's Iron Workers Local 405 leader, Samuel Malone, was one of the four signatories of the letter and has since been reelected to his leadership position.

Despite the squabbling, the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, held May 12-15, ran smoothly. A conference spokesperson said work was efficient, the experience was positive and the organization looks forward to returning for the BIO International Convention in June 2015.