New York officials hoping to land the 2016 Democratic National Convention are highlighting a labor dispute between a Philadelphia union and the city’s convention center as evidence they're not ready to host the convention.
A decision from the national party on where to hold its nomination convention next year is down to Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Columbus. But upsetting organized labor — a key bloc among Democrats — could have problems.
On Saturday, protesters from Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters protested at the city’s auto show, which is being held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
"They were in the face of exhibitors, they were in the face of our security," convention center President and CEO John McNichol told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "They were belligerent. They were just being generally disruptive."
The union denies they were being disruptive.
At issue is the union’s exclusion from a contract with the convention center. The convention authority received a restraining order against the union’s protesters — barring them from harassing visitors or vandalizing display cars.
The convention center would host smaller aspects of the Democratic National Convention were Philadelphia to be selected for the event. The largest events would be held at the Wells Fargo Center, home to the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team.
A leader of New York’s bid said Tuesday that the protest showed that New York was better equipped to handle the convention.
“As we’ve said from the beginning of this process, New York has an unmatched ability to stage large-scale, high-profile events,” said Laura Santucci, who is heading up New York’s bid, in a statement. “From our strong relationships with the City’s trade unions to our infrastructure to the NYPD’s unrivaled security expertise, there is no better place to hold the 2016 Democratic National Convention.”
An official with the New York Hotel Trades Council, which is working with the city to woo the convention, slammed the convention center’s actions as “anti-union.”
"With Columbus lacking sufficient hotel rooms and now Philadelphia filing for an anti-union restraining order against the blue collar workers who would work at the DNC, it's time to pick Brooklyn,” said Josh Gold, the union’s political director, in a statement.
"New York's claim that Columbus doesn't have enough hotel rooms is entirely false," said Meredith Tucker, spokesperson for Columbus 2016. "In fact, Columbus has over 26,000 hotel rooms where delegates can afford to stay close to the convention sites."
Tucker also said the bid "is very proud of our strong partnership with labor unions here and across the state" but declined to directly comment on the events in Philadelphia.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee declined to comment. Officials from the Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, bids did not respond to requests for comment.
The Democrats are expected to announce the site of the convention in the next few weeks. Republicans will hold their convention in Cleveland in July 2016.
The convention could be a financial windfall for the chosen city and its hospitality sector. In addition to the money spent on staging the convention itself, the event brings thousands of delegates, campaign staffers and members of the media to the host city.
A 2013 study produced by the Charlotte, N.C., tourism bureau found that the 2012 DNC in the city had resulted in $163.6 million of direct and indirect spending in the area.
This post was updated at 4:43 p.m.