By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Convention Center, in center city, is taking a new tack in its ongoing battle with the carpenters’ union: the facility has filed a federal suit against the union under the federal “RICO” (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization) statute, which is normally used to prosecute organized crime.

Convention center president John McNichol says it is not a stretch to use the anti-racketeering law to challenge the carpenters’ union.

“When you have two or more individuals essentially working together to deny what is the taxpayer’s right to operate this facility in open commerce, and they interrupt that strategically and intentionally, the act applies,” he told KYW Newsradio today.

Unionized carpenters have been picketing the facility weekly since being shut out of work there last year, after failing to sign a new customer service agreement by the deadline.

The lawsuit also charges they place false ads on Craigslist and vandalized the auto show in an effort to intimidate the center into giving them their jobs back.

A handful of members were outside this weekend’s Comic Con convention, handing out leaflets.  But, like their leadership, they declined comment.