It didn't take long for Brooklyn's convention machine to try to capitalize on the Convention Center's court order against union carpenters who allegedly harassed attendees and vandalized vehicles at the 2015 Philadelphia Auto Show over the weekend.
"Antiunion," said one New York union official involved in helping Brooklyn in its bid to beat Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
The Democratic Party, known for its strong union ties, is expected to decide "by mid-month" which city will land the convention with its millions of dollars of economic impact, a party spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Will Saturday's incident at the Convention Center make any difference in the decision?
"We don't comment on any factors being discussed or not being discussed," said the spokeswoman, Lily Adams. "Or you can just say, 'No comment.' "
On Saturday, Convention Center staff ejected at least 75 people, allegedly union members, from the building after ticket-buying patrons wearing Carpenters union hoodies and shirts moved through the show, allegedly tossing massive amounts of leaflets into show cars and trucks, pulling out wiring, and removing oil caps and fuel caps from display cars, said John McNichol, chief executive of the center.
No criminal charges have been filed, a police spokesman said. McNichol said the center was reviewing surveillance tapes to see what would be warranted.
On Sunday, the center's management sought and received a restraining order from Common Pleas Court Judge Maria McLaughlin banning members and leaders of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters from "vandalizing or destructing" Auto Show vehicles, and "threatening, harassing, intimidating" show attendees.
That's not what happened Saturday, said Martin O'Rourke, the Carpenters' spokesman: "They were protesting peacefully and that's the extent of it."
The Carpenters lost jurisdiction in the building in May after they did not sign a new customer satisfaction agreement by a deadline set by the center's management. Since then, other unions have done their work and the Carpenters have held regular protests outside.
There have been jurisdictional battles at the Convention Center since it opened, and until recently, management had been either unwilling or unable to resolve them.
But Saturday's incident was different.
"We've had our intra-trade, contractor-union issues on the floor, off the floor, and behind the scenes," said Tony Wigglesworth, head of the Philadelphia Area Labor Management Committee, a group that has been trying to broker management-labor harmony at the center for at least 20 years.
"This is the first time where people came in from the outside as ticket-holders," he said.
When the Democratic convention site-selection committee came to Philadelphia last summer, the Carpenters did not protest during the visit.
If Philadelphia lands the convention, union carpenters stand to gain a lot of work at the Wells Fargo Center, where the main events will be held. Other events would be at the Convention Center.
"The Carpenters are 100 percent for the Democratic National Convention coming to Philadelphia," O'Rourke said. "The lockout is a separate and distinct issue that we hope will be resolved before then." (The union says it was locked out by center management.)
That's also how former Gov. Ed Rendell is looking at the issue. Rendell, who heads Philadelphia 2016, the nonprofit angling to bring the convention to Philadelphia, said the site-selection group was briefed on the Carpenters issue.
"We explained that to them, when we were here, and said that by July 2016 it will be over with, one way or another," Rendell said, adding that given what allegedly happened Saturday, "this last thing will backfire" on the Carpenters.
When the Republican National Convention came to Philadelphia in 2000, the city's unions signed a labor peace agreement, and many made financial contributions to help underwrite both the bid process and the convention itself.
Among them, said U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D., Pa), was his union - the same group allegedly involved in Saturday's incident.
But the Carpenters didn't contribute to the current bid. Solicitations began in the summer, shortly after the union lost jurisdiction in the Convention Center.
Rendell said they weren't asked: "I didn't think they were in the mood to give money."
Meanwhile, the blowup of this issue has marred the postshow glow for the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, which reported the second-best attendance in the show's 114-year history.
"We rocked," said Donald Franks, who chairs the group.
Of the 252,000 who attended the Auto Show, more than 107,000 people visited during its final two days, with more than 60,000 on the floor Saturday, the day of the apparent disruption.
"From our perspective, we were kind of victims of it," Franks said.
Show officials had gotten wind that there might be a problem when, earlier in the week, people bought mass amounts of tickets and then didn't enter the show. They credited building security with minimizing the situation as it was occurring.
Franks and others with the dealers group said the show ran more smoothly than it had in the past, with union stagehands - the group now doing most of the Carpenters' work - handling the show professionally, courteously, and efficiently.