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This Jeopardy thing with the Convention Center is like the "new dentistry."
After a while, the word gets around .....


Friday, April 20, 2001

Convention Center quiz: What is 'too expensive'?
Officials from the "Jeopardy!" television quiz show will not use the Phila.
facility again.
By Marcia Gelbart
Add Jeopardy! to the list of events that will not come back to the
Convention Center.
Convention Center officials gloated this week about the recent taping of
Jeopardy!, the first time the game show was taped at any convention center.
But one executive from the show was not as boastful: Because of detailed
rules about which trade unions can do what work, taping the 10 segments in
Philadelphia cost the show $50,000 more than it has ever spent in its four
years on the road, said Bob Sofia, technical supervisor.
"The unions were out there to make money at whatever the cost and to put as
many people as possible to work," Sofia complained from his Los Angeles
office this week. "It was without a doubt the most expensive Jeopardy!,
because of some rules and regulations that I say are stupid."
Should the game return to Philadelphia, it will not tape at the Convention
Center, Sofia said.
The show's officials are not used to dealing with convention centers and
their unions to set up glitzy stages; they often use theaters, auditoriums
or hotels. Their experience here was an eye-opener.
"There are work rules that apply here that probably don't apply in other
cities," said William Corazo, who as the Convention Center's site
representative settles work disputes on the spot.
Almost eight weeks since a new Convention Center labor agreement took
effect, Jeopardy!'s experience suggests that hurdles remain for Convention
Center officials as they strive to make Philadelphia more palatable to event
planners nationwide.
"We've always maintained that if people get a good honest day's work from
guys who are hustling, that cost isn't as big a factor as getting the work
done, and quickly," Robert Butera, president of the Convention Center
Authority, said yesterday. "If that's not happening, we must address it."
A study last year commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association
found that it took longer and cost more to set up and dismantle shows in
Philadelphia than in unionized centers in six other cities.
Planners for 45 groups said they would be reluctant to return to the
Convention Center until labor issues were resolved, and the planner for one,
the American College of Rheumatology, said the Convention Center was off his
The recent labor agreement expresses the importance of efficiency and
positive attitudes, but was specifically intended to end work-rule disputes
among the six trade unions that work in the Convention Center.
"Since the signing of the agreement, the relationship between the carpenters
and the stagehands has improved dramatically," said Michael Barnes,
representing Local 8 of the stagehands' union.
Some planners who have held recent meetings here - 17 groups of 500 people
or more have used the center since the deal took effect - say the agreement
is working.
"On the whole, we had no confrontations or problems at all," said Andrea
Imperatore, who coordinated a mid-March conference for 2,300 regional
teachers and early-childhood workers.
But a coordinator of one of the most popular events, the Philadelphia Flower
Show, cites a major shortcoming outside the labor agreement: cost.
Jane Pepper, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, said
surveys from many of the show's 100 marketplace exhibitors indicated that
they were "upset at the cost of union labor and how long it takes to do
something that they perceive they could do quicker, with fewer people."
Like Pepper, Sofia lauded the agreement's provision for immediate dispute
But Sofia said some of Corazo's decisions cost him money. He said he was
forced to pay a carpenter $130 an hour - double time for a weekend job -
even though he needed no carpentry work done.
"In the interest of peace and to keep my show moving, it was suggested I put
a [carpenter] on," Sofia said.
Edward Coryell Jr., a representative of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters
and Joiners Metropolitan Regional Council, said the hiring of the carpenter,
a steward, was part of the contract his union had with the general
contractor. "Because there were other union stewards there . . . someone had
to be there to protect our interests," Coryell said.
Corazo, who is a former business representative for the electricians' union,
said, "Things are a lot better than they were six months ago."
"There are still bumps in the road," Corazo said. "But for the most part,
jurisdictional disputes are few and far between."

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