By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The head of the union that has been blamed for labor troubles at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will now sit on the center’s board of directors.

Carpenters’ Union head Ed Coryell Sr. will take the seat on the Convention Center board controlled by Democrats in the Pennsylvania state senate.

That appointment is noteworthy because tourism industry officials have long privately (and occasionally publicly) blamed the carpenters for customer dissatisfaction at the center.

Coryell did not return our call seeking comment.  But Pat Gillespie of the area Building Trades Council, who last held that seat on the board, defends his union colleague.

“Ed has a keen interest in seeing to it that the building functions.  Because when a convention doesn’t come here, and that place is dark, we have members who aren’t working,” Gillespie tells KYW Newsradio.

And Gillespie had this to say about critics of Coryell:

“When someone selects a villain rather than try to find a solution, there’s an agenda there.”

In fact, one top tourism industry official who’s often critical of the carpenters — and who asked not to be named — saw a silver lining to Coryell’s appointment:  “Maybe sitting on the board he will see firsthand the challenges we face from past customer service issues.”

Convention Center board chairman Gregory Fox said he welcomes the labor leader.

“The carpenters’ union is an important part of the workforce at the center, and having Mr. Coryell there, and being able to hear his concerns, should be a plus for the center,” Fox said today.

The change comes a month after the board chose the Conshohocken company SMG to take over management of day-to-day operations at the center (see related story).   SMG will eventually replace local staff.

This also comes as the board faces negotiating new deals with the six unions that operate at the Convention Center, including the carpenters.

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