What work dispute has two contracts, three parties, and six unions?

No wonder it's confusing trying to settle workplace issues at the Convention Center. You would almost need to book a ballroom to squeeze in all the negotiators and their lawyers.

Before a deal was reported Thursday night, four of the six unions picketed the center and a fifth didn't cross the picket line. The sixth went to work.

The talks involved everyone and turned on two contracts. One was a standard collective-bargaining contract involving wages, benefits, and work hours.

The other was a customer-service agreement that details what work unions do and what work exhibitors can do, and sets up procedures for resolving disputes among the unions.

The six unions - representing carpenters, electricians, Teamsters, laborers, stagehands, and riggers - don't actually work for the Convention Center.

They are employed by Elliott-Lewis Corp., a Philadelphia company that acts as a labor broker, dispensing union workers, on an as-needed basis, to set up and run conventions in the center.

Exhibition companies contract with Elliott-Lewis to get the union staff they need.

The exhibition companies are hired by associations and organizations to produce their conventions at centers such as Philadelphia's.

No matter whom union members report to on the convention floor, they work according to the collective-bargaining wage and benefit contract and according to the customer-service agreement.

The board doesn't want to continue to run the day-to-day operations of the center. On June 5, it voted to hire SMG, of West Conshohocken, a professional convention and arena management company, to handle daily operations.