The grip-and-grin moment won't be happening Jan. 4 at the Convention Center when a favorite charity of the newly inaugurated mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, will host a private reception for its largest donors.
"We think it's the right thing to do for the kids," said Edward J. Coryell, the leader of the Carpenters union, explaining why the union is donating $100,000 to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.
It's the biggest donation so far in the fund-raising drive being conducted by Kenney, as part of his inaugural bash at the Convention Center, the School District fund's chief executive said Monday.
But Coryell will skip the reception, the photo op, and the ceremonial handoff of that $100,000 check. He'll also skip the mayoral bash itself.
"It's at the Convention Center," Coryell said. "Let's change the subject."
Members of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters have not been allowed to do show work in the center since May 2014.
Coryell, then a member of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority board, refused to sign a new Customer Satisfaction Agreement by a management deadline. He signed a few days later, but by then the Carpenters' work had been divided among other unions.
Since then, there have been protests, rallies, an injunction, a lawsuit, and a case still before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Kenney's spokeswoman said that he appreciated the donation. "It's clear they're putting their differences aside and our children first," she said.
Kenney's invitation-only party for 1,500 guests is free, but the mayor-elect wants those invited to make a voluntary donation to the School District fund. The fund is working to raise $3.5 million to put a library in every Philadelphia public school classroom from kindergarten to third grade.
"It's unfortunate they won't be able to be there, but we understand the position they have to take," said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, president and chief executive of the fund. "They'll be able to see their dollars at work in the schools, and that's the most important thing."
The next biggest donation through the Kenney fund-raiser was $25,000, she said.
Coryell said the union donated because many Philadelphia public school graduates who try to enter the union apprenticeship program fail the mathematics test.
In the primary, Coryell's union backed a Kenney rival, State Sen. Anthony H. Williams.
Coryell said, "There's no quid pro quo" with the donation. Does he think Kenney will help the Carpenters regain their work in the Convention Center? "No comment."