Officers at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 8, which handles event work at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, among other venues throughout the area, could be facing legal action over an alleged overbilling scheme, sources told City&State PA.
The charges appear to be the latest chapter in a behind-the-scenes leadership shakeup at the union. Local 8 is part of a coalition of labor groups that took over work at the convention center after controversially forcing out the Carpenters and Teamsters unions over long-running complaints by conventioneers.
The latest imbroglio involves Anthony Tortorice, Sr. and Jonathan Tortorice, a father-and-son duo who are also officers at IATSE. Jonathan Tortorice was listed as secretary-treasurer at Local 8; his father was listed as vice president and the union’s contact person at the Merriam Theatre and the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Sources said both were recently purged from their leadership positions after Local 8 President Michael Barnes learned about irregularities in their reported work hours, a practice known as “ghosting,” or reporting hours worked without actually putting in time.
The investigation apparently stretches beyond the alleged overbilling scheme, with purported drug use on the job cited as well. Numerous sources confirmed that the elder Tortorice had to be escorted out of the convention center on June 28 by security.
The Tortorices did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
A spokesperson for the Convention Center declined to comment on the incident. However, an internal source said that Tortorice, Sr. was no longer working shows at the convention center or the Merriam.
When reached for comment on July 5, Barnes forwarded all press inquiries to Frank Keel, who serves as a spokesperson for numerous local building trades unions.
“IATSE Local 8 has no comment pending the completion of an internal investigation,” Keel stated in an email.
However, sources familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the union will be bringing charges against the men tomorrow over fraudulent billing practices, just weeks before the Democratic National Convention sweeps into the center.
For several years after its opening, the Pennsylvania Convention Center was the forum for an internecine battle for jobs among numerous Philadelphia building trades unions. The convention center was struggling to attract and retain large events because of dramatically high pay rates that left it at a significant disadvantage to other cities with lower labor costs.
The deal brokered in 2014 saw the Carpenters and the Teamsters ousted from the worksite. IATSE Local 8 and Electricians Local 98 were among the unions that remained, securing significant additional work as a result, in large part because they agreed to lower pay rates for a number of routine tasks at the convention center. The Carpenters own leadership was later ousted in the aftermath of the controversy.
Electricians’ union chief John Dougherty, who has been heavily involved in the takeover, declined to directly discuss the charges against the Tortorices. However, he said, the unions were intent on cleaning up the Convention Center.
“No matter how minor or how severe, we’re definitely committed to policing ourselves to the max,” he said. “We’re guaranteeing the transparency and cost effectiveness and none of the past nonsense. We worked real hard to make this the No. 1 hospitality destination in America. We’re killing it production-wise at the DNC. We’re two weeks ahead of schedule.”