THEY MARCHED one-by-one in succession, guarded by a giant, inflatable "fat cat" with a devilish grin. The cat extended a giant paw with a diamond pinkie ring to be kissed. The other paw choked the neck of a faux man in a hard hat.

Despite sweltering temperatures sirening the advent of summer, Carpenters Local 8 and Teamsters Local 107 were picketing in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center yesterday morning. They called for an end to the "lockout" they say has now rendered them jobless.

Last month, the Carpenters and Teamsters unions failed to sign a labor agreement that changed their work rules by a deadline set by the convention center board. Center executives say those two unions let the clock run out.

"A lot of the members have been unemployed. Some are able to collect unemployment, but others are not," said Ed Coryell Jr., a representative for the Carpenters.

"To date, this is the first demonstration of many that we plan on having. Our guys will hang in there as long as it takes."

Chanting "End the lockout!" "Shame on you!" and "Let us work!" about 60 union members pumped signs in the air calling on the convention center board to let them work.

John McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, had little to say about the protest, but reassured the Daily News that the center was operating as usual. The four unions that did sign with the center - the Stagehands, Riggers, Laborers and Electrical Workers - have picked up the slack, McNichol has said.

The new work conditions give convention center exhibitors more freedom in choosing how their displays are set up and who does what work in that process. Convention center executives have said this was necessary to compete for bookings on a national and international scale.

On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH