Union dispute creates headaches for Democrats

NutterDem
The Democratic National Committee held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the opening of its convention office in Philadelphia. That event also drew carpenters who handed out pamphlets and held banners that said "Pennsylvania Convention Center 'Hurts our community' end the lockout now."

The Democratic National Committee ran smack into lingering labor strife this week during a visit to Philadelphia to plan July's presidential convention.

DNC officials pulled up to the Convention Center late Wednesday afternoon in two purple Philadelphia Phlash buses to find a picket line of protesters from the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters.

They came. They saw. They drove away.

The DNC delegation decided against crossing the picket line.

April Mellody, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention, called the center "a unique resource that supports jobs for union workers including the electricians, laborers, riggers and stagehands and we look forward to future opportunities for visitors to see it."

Rep. Bob Brady, a lifetime member of the Carpenters Union and chairman of the city's Democratic Party, on Thursday said he asked the union to stand down the picket line.

Brady said Edward Coryell, head of the Carpenters Union, agreed to pull the protesters.

Brady also said he promised to set up a meeting in Washington with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the DNC's chairwoman, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, where Coryell can make his case about his union's protracted dispute with the Convention Center.

Brady stressed that the meeting was not in exchange for the union removing the picket line.

"There was no quid pro quo," he said. "Eddie took the line down right away."

A spokesman for the Carpenters Union did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

While most of the 2016 Democratic National Convention will take place in South Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, the Convention Center is also expected to host events.

Brady said Wasserman Schultz and Pelosi could, after their meeting with Coryell, tell the Convention Center's management that nobody from the DNC will cross a picket line during July's convention.

"They'll go someplace else," Brady said. "There's a lot of places to go. If Eddie holds his ground, I don't know how they cross [a union picket line]."

The DNC held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the opening of its convention office in Philadelphia. That event also drew carpenters, who handed out pamphlets and held banners that said "Pennsylvania Convention Center 'Hurts our community' end the lockout now."

Mayor Nutter, who spoke at the DNC event, dismissed the protest as "information sharing" and "not a picket."

"That dispute has to do with the Convention Center," Nutter said. "The carpenters, as far as I can tell, will be working at the Wells Fargo Center, which is not a venue of dispute."

The Carpenters Union, in a letter in June, pledged to not interfere with the Democratic National Convention unless it held events at the Convention Center.

The carpenters lost the right to work in the Convention Center in May 2014 when Coryell did not sign a new customer-satisfaction agreement by a sudden deadline imposed by management.

brennac@phillynews.com

215-854-5973

@ByChrisBrennan

Inquirer staff writers Jane Von Bergen and Claudia Vargas contributed to this article.