Edward Coryell Sr., one of the region's most powerful labor leaders, is out.

All Philadelphia-area Carpenters union locals have been closed and their assets and members divided among regional councils in Pittsburgh; Edison, N.J.; and Framingham, Mass.

Bewildered carpenters filed in and out of the union's building at 18th and Spring Garden Streets on Wednesday, greeted by notices pasted on the front door informing them of the changes ordered by United Brotherhood of Carpenters general president Douglas McCarron in Washington.

The departure of Coryell, who led the union since 1981, signals the passing of an era in Philadelphia labor history.

Known as a tough but fair negotiator, Coryell, 70, of Wenonah, was a fierce fighter, ready to take on other unions in jurisdictional battles, always with the aim of making sure his members got whatever work was available.

Union carpenters constitute the majority of building trades workers on Philadelphia's major construction projects.

But the union was most noted recently for being one of two that did not sign an agreement to work at the Convention Center in May 2014.

The carpenters lost their work at the facility, which has attracted much new business since then.

That dispute led to nearly two years of protests and pickets, as well as lawsuits and grievances.

Still pending are a federal civil racketeering lawsuit filed against the carpenters by the Convention Center and an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the carpenters against the center.

Coryell put his union's political action fund to work for Gov. Wolf, a Democrat. But the union backed a losing horse in the last mayoral race, State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D., Phila.).

Mayor Kenney received support from carpenters' unions in New Jersey, which raised eyebrows in political circles.

Coryell's influence extended beyond the union hall and the construction site. He served on state economic developments boards; the board of Independence Blue Cross, the region's largest health insurer; and, until recently, the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority.

Coryell had earned nearly $388,000 in the last full year in wages and other payments as the executive secretary-treasurer of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters, the council's top leadership position.

Under Wednesday's changes, Philadelphia's locals, members, and assets will be divided among the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (NRCC) in Edison, Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters in Pittsburgh, and the Eastern Millwright General Council in Framingham.

The NRCC will get the lion's share of the Metropolitan Regional Council's 17,000 members. The NRCC's 30,000 members will grow to nearly 40,000 covering Delaware and New Jersey, plus parts of Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Coryell did not respond to emails and calls to his spokesman Wednesday. He had abruptly canceled a scheduled interview with The Inquirer on Wednesday morning. An NRCC news release said that Coryell was cooperating with the transition and included a statement from him.

"This newly expanded structure will improve the collective strength of the union," Coryell said in the statement.

The news release describes the takeover as part of a long-standing strategy by McCarron to strengthen union bargaining positions by consolidating locals and councils into larger organizations.

In January 2014, Coryell was the union leader gaining new geographic territory. McCarron tapped him to pick up union locals in Washington; Baltimore; and other parts of Maryland and Virginia.

Rumors had been flying for months that Coryell was on the edge of leaving office. He dismissed those rumors as recently as a month ago as nothing but speculation.

Coryell's term of office was set to expire in August 2017.

The news release did not mention Coryell's son, Edward Jr., who held the regional council's number-two spot. Coryell Jr. earned $225,070, plus $24,000 in other disbursements in 2014.

Coryell Jr. had headed the carpenters' workforce at the Convention Center. Months before union carpenters lost jurisdiction there, he was permanently banned after getting in a fistfight with the center's labor broker.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769@JaneVonBergen

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