Philadelphia Unions Get New Hearing On Convention Center Ouster

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Philadelphia, PA – Two Philadelphia unions that had lost their jurisdictions for missing the deadline to agree to new work rules at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) will get another chance to convince a state regulator that they were improperly locked out.

Jack Marino, a hearing examiner for the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB), unexpectedly and without explanation, announced in mid-April that he had reversed his earlier ruling that the PLRB did not have jurisdiction in the complaint filed against the PCC by the carpenters and Teamsters locals.

A date for a new hearing was not immediately set. The new work rules remain in place.

“We remain confident that once all of the facts that led to the initial dismissal are reviewed, the PLRB ruling in our favor will be upheld,” Jack Ferguson, president & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a letter to trade show organizers. “We are watching closely and we know that our customers are too.”

The unions had complained to the PLRB that the negotiations over the so-called Customer Satisfaction Agreement had been unfairly cut off by management’s arbitrary signing deadline. Four other unions signed the deal before the deadline and took up the work that would have been earmarked for the Teamsters and carpenters.

The latest PLRB move raises the possibility that the Teamsters and carpenters could be allowed to work trade shows again, although they would be obligated to follow the Customer Satisfaction Agreement work rules that had been warmly welcomed by the trade show industry.

Ferguson said there was nothing to indicate that the facts of the case had changed enough for Marino to reverse his decision. “To the center’s knowledge, there was no new evidence introduced since the official PLRB ruling, but this unprecedented reversal has opened the door for hearings on the issue to be scheduled,” he said.

Two of the remaining PCC unions, the Laborers and Stagehands, sent a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asking for an investigation into the possibility that the ousted unions had put improper political pressure on Marino to reopen the case, particularly since it did not appear that the Teamsters and carpenters made an official request for a reversal.

A labor attorney not involved with the PCC case speculated that a recent ruling involving McDonald’s restaurant workers may have prompted Marino to give the case a second look. The lawyer told the Philadelphia Business Journal that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s was a joint employer along with its franchise owners of the workers. The same could be argued for the PCC unions, whom the PLRB had ruled were technically employed by Elliott-Lewis, a firm that manages payroll and benefits for the PCC unions. Marino had stated that since PCC was not a joint employer of the union members, his office did not have the authority to rule on the dispute.

Any further hearings by the PLRB were not expected until Fall.

Reach Jack Ferguson at (215) 636-3310 or jack@discoverphl.com