Carpenters to picket letter-carriers' convention

Members of the Carpenters union protesting outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center when they were locked out by managers of the facility. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

Union carpenters shut out of work at the Pennsylvania Convention Center picketed the facility Friday and said they will protest every day next week when the National Association of Letter Carriers union (NALC) holds its convention.

The protest will put unionized letter carriers in the position of deciding whether to cross a picket line to attend convention sessions.

However, despite overtures from the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, the letter carriers union declined to cancel their convention - one of the city's largest this year, with an expected economic impact of $24.8 million.

"It was unfortunate what happened with the carpenters," said James Sauber, chief of staff for NALC.

But, he said, with 12,000 letter carriers and family members expected to attend the convention, arrangements were made long before the carpenters' troubles with the Convention Center came to a head when they did not sign a new customer-satisfaction agreement by a May 5 deadline.

The carpenters and the other union shut out of the center - Teamsters Local 107 - say that the deadline was unfairly imposed. Both signed by May 9.

"We support unions and they support unionized workers," Sauber said. "In this case, we've had conversations. They understand our situation and we understand theirs."

Carpenters spokesman Martin O'Rourke said he has been told that some letter carriers won't cross the picket line and that it may become an issue for politicians scheduled to speak at the convention, which begins Sunday and ends July 26.

"I would note that crossing a protest line is not the same as crossing an active picket line related to a work action," John J. McNichol, the Convention Center's chief executive said, objecting to any efforts by the carpenters to discourage the NALC convention from coming to Philadelphia.

NALC last held its convention here in 2002.