Chicago, IL – Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) reached an agreement with its electricians and stagehand unions that will loosen the jurisdictions between the two and make McCormick Place and Navy Pier more competitive in the market for corporate events and trade shows.
The deal, announced June 19 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is part of the mayor’s ongoing effort to address issues surrounding work rules at McCormick Place and Navy Pier. The new agreement settles a jurisdictional dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 134 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 2. It allows the IATSE stagehands to handle tasks on temporary stages and other temporary presentation areas previously controlled by the IBEW electricians, giving show managers and exhibitors more of a “one-stop” labor experience.
The temporary areas include staging for product launches, parties and even general sessions as opposed to the exhibit floor.
MPEA CEO Jim Reilly said the goal was to make Chicago more enticing to smaller events that may not require much exhibit set-up but make use of sometimes elaborate stages, audio-visual and lighting. “Today’s announcement…goes a long way to strengthen Chicago’s ability to attract corporate and association business,” Reilly said. “Listening to our customers’ needs was a catalyst for the labor changes unveiled today.”
Under the agreement, union stagehands would be allowed to set up and operate lighting, sound and AV equipment and connect it to power sources, which would still be provided by the electricians.
The electricians will maintain their control over electrical work in exhibit booths as well as lighting and patching that is connected to permanent power sources. Leaders of the electricians union hope that by conceding the stage to the stagehands, there will be more events held at McCormick Place and Navy Pier that will require their services.
“IBEW, Local 134 is proud of this historic agreement with the MPEA and Navy Pier, Inc., said Business Manager Terry Allen. “The agreement not only promotes the growth of the trade show industry resulting in an increase in working hours for our members, it also protects the historic work jurisdiction of Local 134.”
Reilly pointed to splashy product launches held at trade shows or stand-alone corporate meetings and events as a big reason MPEA sought the rule changes. Organizers of such events, he said, are more engaged in pure production work as opposed to standard exhibit hall set-up and often prefer to have everything handled by experienced stagehands.
“Shows like that haven’t been willing to book McCormick Place or, on a smaller level, Navy Pier, because that jurisdiction heretofore belonged to the electricians,” Reilly told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Today’s agreement is another important step towards making McCormick Place the nation’s premier convention venue,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said at the news conference announcing the deal. “More conventions means more business and more jobs for Illinois.”
The predictions of increased business for the MPEA were bolstered this week with the announcement that Reed Exhibitions was indeed bringing shows to Chicago and extending the run of its Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo through 2014. Reed said Book Expo America would take place in Chicago in 2016 – its first run in the Windy City since 2004. In addition, the annual AIBTM, The Americas Meeting & Events Exhibition, will rotate between Chicago and Orlando starting next year.
R. Craig Moyes, director of the IBTM Global Events Portfolio for Reed Travel Exhibitions, cited Chicago’s large hotel inventory, two major airports and approximately 400 corporate headquarters as reasons to make it the show’s home base in odd-numbered years. “We will now have the flexibility to maximize the enormous potential delivered to AIBTM by both Chicago and Orlando,” Moyes said.