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AxisPhilly has learned that labor leader Edward Coryell Sr. has been named to the 15-member board that oversees operations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
As a board member, Coryell, head of the 8,000-member Carpenter’s District Council, will ultimately approve new contracts being negotiated with the center’s unions.
In that role, he will come face-to-face with the head of the center’s largest union: A fierce negotiator named Edward Coryell Sr.
They are one and the same man.
Gregory Fox, chairman of the center’s board of directors, confirmed Coryell’s appointment Friday, saying: “I welcome Ed Coryell to the board and look forward to working with him to deliver on the economic opportunity that the Center represents.”
Appointments to the board are divvied up among various political entities, including the mayor, the suburban counties, the governor and the legislature. Coryell was appointed to a seat reserved for state Senate Democrats. Officially, it was Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa of Pittsburgh who made the appointment. In reality, Coryell’s name was advanced by leaders of the Philadelphia delegation, Sens. Vincent Hughes and Anthony Hardy Williams, according to sources.
Coryell replaces Pat Gillespie, head of the Building Trades Council, whose term on the board had expired.
While Fox talked about the opportunities at the center, its minuses currently far outweigh its pluses. As Axis Philly has reported, the recently expanded center is turning out to be a dud. A $780-million expansion of the center was supposed to help it draw 20 or more large, citywide conventions each year. Twenty are scheduled this year, but the numbers drop off dramatically after that. Only eight are scheduled in 2016.
The main reason for the decline in bookings? Convention planners have turned sour on the center, mostly due to continuing problems with labor costs and hassles.
There are six unions that work at the center: The riggers, the stagehands, the laborers, the teamsters, and the electricians. Sources said five of the six perform up to expectations. As one source familiar with center operations put it: “We don’t have a labor problem. We have a Carpenters Union problem.”
The head of the carpenter’s contingent at the center is Ed Coryell Jr., son of the labor leader and — now — convention center board member.
That makes Coryell Sr. not only his father, not only his union president, but one of his bosses. Neither Coryell was available for comment Friday.
In a bid to improve its sagging fortunes, the convention center board recently hired a private management firm to run the center and it began negotiating a new Customer Service Agreement with the unions. People in the hospitality industry had hoped the negotiations would give the center an opportunity to push back and try for fewer labor hassles, less overtime and lower costs.
Coryell’s appointment to the board complicates matters, to say the least.