No Sign of Labor Issues at the Pennsylvania Convention Center

May 12, 2014

Traci Browne

Owner, Red Cedar Marketing, auhor of "The Social Trade Show: Leveraging Social Media and Virtual Events"

All was quiet today outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center as the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology is going on inside without interruption.

The labor situation at the PCC escalated recently when two of the six unions refused to sign a new customer service agreement last week and now are out of the center.

After seeing numerous reports in the local papers about the tension at the PCC, almost all accompanied by pictures of picket lines, I decided to head down there myself to have a look.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) was holding one of their events at the center,and I wanted to know how the labor problems were affecting their event.

I spoke to Paul Winters, director of communications BIO, before I got on the subway, and he told me that there was nothing happening outside. Their event was not impacted at all. Good news, but again, I wanted to see for myself.

I exited the subway about a block from the Broad Street entrance to the convention center and found the sidewalk empty. The front doors to the center were locked. I assumed all the activity must be at the Eleventh and Arch Street entrances.

I made my way down Arch Street, and as I approached I was surprised to find no picketers there either. The security presence was what you would typically find there on a normal day. I saw only one police officer and one security guard standing out front of the doors. I thought, “perhaps all the picketers are at lunch.”

Inside the convention center, everything looked as it should when a conference or trade show is taking place.

Winters told me they had been in close contact with the PCC in the weeks leading up to the show.

The convention center had kept them in the loop as to what was happening with the status of the contract negotiations. “We didn’t have any problems during setup. We didn’t hear any feedback from the exhibitors beyond what is normal.”

Winters said they did communicate with their attendees just to let them know they might find a larger police presence at the convention center when they arrived. They also informed them only certain entrances to the convention center might be accessible.

The exhibit hall was empty when we walked through, but that was due to a luncheon plenary session taking place in a packed ballroom.

The BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology has estimated attendance of about 1,100 people from 35 different countries. The organizations largest event, the 2014 BIO International Convention,is set to take place this June 23-26 at the San Diego Convention Center.

IN 2015, the BIO International Convention will be returning to Philadelphia, so the fact that their event this week is going off without a hitch is significant for them.

When I left the building just after 1:15pm, there still were no signs of any picketers in front of the convention center. Because it has beenreported in the local Philadelphia news outlets that the unions are now fighting with each other, I walked around back to the loading docks expecting to see some activity there. Again, there was nothing.

When I asked three police officers nearby if they had seen any picketing taking place at the convention center today, they told me that no one had been there all morning, nor all day.

This is certainly good news for other shows planning on coming into Philadelphia over the next few weeks. Is it also a lesson in, don’t believe everything you read?

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