Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015, 1:08 AM
Accusing the Carpenters union of “prolonged and coordinated violent, illegal, and extortionate conduct,” the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority filed a racketeering lawsuit Thursday against the union.
“The complaint seeks to recover more than $1 million in damages inflicted on the [authority] by the Carpenters union,” the Convention Center’s chief executive, John McNichol, said in a statement. “The board considers these to be very serious charges as outlined in the complaint.”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, lists union leader Edward Coryell, his son Edward Jr., and other named and unnamed union members.
No comment was available from the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters on Thursday evening.
The lawsuit cites alleged union disruptions during the Philadelphia Auto Show in January and February.
“Defendants planned their campaign of violence and intimidation in detail well in advance,” according to court papers.
For example, on Feb. 7, about 200 carpenters, who had purchased tickets a day earlier, walked into the show, allegedly “removing engine covers and fuses, ripping out wiring harnesses, and stealing oil and gas caps.”
According to the suit, an operative within the union provided a map of the show floor, showing that union leaders divided the carpenters into three color-coded teams, each assigned a target list of exhibitors.
“The ‘Orange’ team, was led by defendant [Kenyatta] Bundy and was responsible for disrupting the following exhibitors: Mazda, Lincoln,” the suit says.
Also, the show’s black-tie benefit for the Division of Neonatology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Jan. 28 was allegedly interrupted when 80 to 100 carpenters gathered outside, pounded on windows, and shouted obscenities at guests.
“Many of the carpenters present appeared to be drunk; all were belligerent,” according to the suit.
The carpenters began their protests after they, along with the Teamsters, lost the right to work in the center last May. Their leaders had not signed a new customer satisfaction agreement by a deadline imposed by management.
The four remaining unions divided up the Carpenters’ and Teamsters’ work. Both unions signed a few days later.
A complaint from the Carpenters and Teamsters unions involving the issue is before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
The suit says the carpenters immediately began a pattern of intimidation, starting with traffic-blocking protests that disrupted buses bringing conventioneers to the building.
Starting in August, the suit said, carpenters “stalked building management and harassed them by loudly blowing whistles and air horns close to their persons . . . and acting in a physically menacing and intimidating fashion.”
Besides the actions at the Convention Center, the union also allegedly engaged in a marketing campaign designed to discourage customers from coming to the center.
The union purchased a four-page insert in a national trade publication that caters to meeting planners, saying “it now costs more to put on shows in Philadelphia because it takes the unskilled replacement workers twice as long to do the work of locked-out carpenters,” the suit says, quoting the carpenters’ insert.
In April, after the Democratic National Committee announced it would hold its 2016 presidential convention in Philadelphia, the carpenters sent a letter to local and national party leaders asking them not to book events at the center.
That efforts worked, the lawsuit says, because the Chester County Democratic Committee advised the Convention Center Authority on April 12 that it would not hold events at the center during the convention.
Other defendants listed in the suit include J.R. Hocker, an organizer, and Ronald Curran and Richard Washlick.