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New Report Increases Tension Between Pennsylvania Convention Center And Its Unions

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A new report about the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s operations is adding fuel to tensions between the Center and the unions that work there.

The report was commissioned by state officials to look at top-to-bottom operations of the Convention Center. One finding concluded that because convention organizers must use union workers, the city is losing convention bookings, and that in turn has cost the city’s hotels 400,000 room nights since 2007.

Ahmeena Young, CEO of the Convention Center, says this puts the center at a big disadvantage.

”The concern is not with the skill level of the labor unions, but the work rules as they apply to six different unions. We are going to have to make some changes with the unions. We are not sure where we’re going to land, but we have to make some changes. Our customers are demanding it,” said Young

But Pat Gillespie, head of the Building Trades Council, says the unions are being made out to be the fall guy.

”For them to point to, and make, organized labor a scapegoat is a tragedy. It just demonstrates once again that people really don’t know the business they’re supposed to be in,” said Gillepsie

Gillespie says the Center is losing business because it is run inefficiently, not because of union costs. The Convention Center opens its greatly expanded floor space in just two months.

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW City Hall bureau chief

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  • dave

    As someone who helps coordinate and set-up in 5-6 major domestic (and more int’l) convention centers a year I can, without a doubt say that it is the unions, their rules, charges, excess charges. work ethic and the like that are responsible for MANY conventions never setting foot here or never setting foot here again.

    Some of the trades are ok but in general it ends up being a nightmare on many levels from beginning to end.

    Unions serve a good purpose in the organization, load in, operation and load out of shows but it is just criminal the way they operate in Philly. They MAY be worse than Chicago or NY…That’s bad for you folks who do not know first hand and are not a customer to these unions.

    I live here and my industry will NEVER have a show in the PACC for just these reasons. We are quite happy with NY, Orlando, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Denver and the ease of working with these facilities.

  • BC

    I have been a customer at the Convention Center thru my company. These unions are notorious for overcharging and gouging customers. Want your display set up first? Come up with the cash. Want something hooked up electrically? Pay 4 hours labor for a 5 minute job. Want something moved from one side of the display to the other? Pay up. Unfortunately this will continue until the companies realize that Las Vegas, Houston, Chicago, LA and other cities want their business and won’t gouge them for every nickel.

    • Tom McGrath

      Agree to BC. Been there seen it and know for a fact. Everything UNION. You can’t touch anything without a union worker being paid to do it for you. Had to load in some equipment on several occasions and got as far as the loading dock. Union takes over from there. Lucky they don’t charge you to breath on Convention property.

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