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Cobo Center Seals New Deal with Labor to Streamline Services


Detroit -Two years of negotiations between SMG-managed Cobo Center and the labor unions that provide services at the center have resulted in a new agreement concerning work rules that will help streamline services for conventions and trade shows.

Under the new rules, straight-time hours were extended to include 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. instead of ending at 3 p.m. In addition, the new agreement allows exhibitors to carry in booth materials that don’t require motorized equipment, provides options for savings on material handling labor that primarily will be reflected in loading and unloading fees, and grants additional leeway for exhibitors who set up their own booths of up to 400 square feet. The leeway extends to equipment, displays and lighting, according to Thom Connors, general manager of Cobo Center for SMG.

All skilled unions working at Cobo Center took part in the negotiations and the resulting agreement. Those unions are: Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters; Local 58 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Local 25 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, Rigging, Machinery Erectors & Reinforcing Ironworkers; Local 38 of International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees and Moving Pictures Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada, AFL-CIO, CLC; and Local 299 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Connors said the negotiations represented “an unprecedented level of dialogue and a better cooperative relationship” between the center and labor that would help put Detroit “back on the map” for convention and trade show business. “We feel that labor is part of the team,” he added.

Dick Reynolds, executive director of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, noted that positive changes to the work environment and the facility likely to increase bookings at the Cobo Center were a factor in reaching the agreement. The Cobo Authority this summer will debut a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 25,000 square feet of meeting space and a 30,000-square-foot atrium at the center.

Reach Thom Connors at (313) 877-8777 or

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