- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A labor relations hearing examiner has reversed his decision to throw out complaints by two unions barred from working at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

In March, hearing examiner Jack Marino of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board had dismissed complaints by the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 107 that the two unions had been improperly banned from the facility in May. But in a 14-page opinion issued Thursday, he said hearings would be scheduled soon to determine the merits of the carpenters’ complaints.

The center’s management has blamed former work rules for chasing larger events away from the facility. Under the new work rules, exhibitors can build larger display booths without union help and use tools like stepladders and screwdrivers while doing so, which the old union rules had prohibited. It’s also no longer necessary to have a union electrician plug in computers.

The two unions were barred after they didn’t agree to the new work rules by a May deadline. Four other unions who did agree are now sharing the work they used to do.

“It’s certainly positive news,” said William Hamilton, head of Teamsters Local 107. “It will give a forum to at least hear the facts.” He warned however, that a decision would be “months and months away.”

John McNichol, president and CEO of the Convention Center Authority, said he was at a loss to explain the reversal since he knew of no new evidence submitted, which he said he found “troubling.”

“If the significant changes made at the center are overturned, we could see a catastrophic loss of bookings that will devastate the hospitality industry,” he told reporters in an email. In addition, he said, “many customers have been savvy enough to include provisions in their agreements that if the carpenters return to the building, they have the right to cancel their events.”

A key issue is whether - as the unions argue - the convention center authority is a joint employer along with a company that hires union workers and handles payroll and other administrative functions, or - as the authority maintains - the company is the only employer.

Any ruling Marino makes following hearings could be appealed to the full three-member board, and the board’s decision to Commonwealth Court.



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