This Just In

Deal Struck With Remaining Two McCormick Place Unions


Chicago, IL – The two unions that had successfully challenged the sweeping labor reforms at McCormick Place reached an agreement with state and local officials in Chicago that will reinstitute many of the provisions that trade show organizers had sought. The agreement by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters will make the changes in work rules permanent for workers who perform the lion’s share of the set-up and tear-down of some of the biggest trade shows in the U.S.

The new agreement includes the provisions that lower the cost of labor on the show floor by expanding straight-time hours and allowing exhibitors to perform more of their own work when setting up booths and, in particular, heavy and complex machinery.

The highlights:

·        The Exhibitors’ Bill of Rights allows show managers and exhibitors to perform their own work in any size booth, using their own ladders or hand tools, cordless tools, power tools and other tools designated by the Authority.

·         Key Expanded Straight-time (Monday – Friday) is restored and additionally provisions roll back double-time pay for the following holidays (Columbus, Day, Veteran’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and President’s Day) and a more flexible schedule on Saturdays which reduces double-time.

·         Auto Small Utility Vehicles (ASUV) (or Personally Operated Vehicle Provisions) allow exhibitors to operate, load and unload their own vehicles at docks and designated loading areas.

·         Crew Size Reductions will immediately allow work at McCormick Place to be done by two-person crews rather than the three person crews required prior to the reforms.

“The restoration of exhibitor rights at McCormick Place, without any future threat, ensures that our customers will not only realize significant savings, but prosper as a result of exhibitors returning to their shows in full force,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).

Welcome News
Not surprisingly, the agreement was well received by the trade show industry. “These reforms have proven to be in everyone’s best interests,” said John Patronski, the Chicago-based executive vice president of Global Experience Specialists (GES). “Exhibitors report a better experience at McCormick Place and the labor force has more work.”

Joe Popolo, CEO of Freeman, said the agreement cleared the way for show organizers and their partners to make solid plans for the future. “By protecting exhibitor rights and leaving the MPEA Reform Act intact, collectively we have eliminated costly uncertainty, created an environment to grow jobs, and kept Chicago an attractive place for our customers,” he said.

The new agreement should put an end to a high-stakes legal battle that had put the reforms in limbo for much of the year

The original reforms were passed in Spring 2010 by the Illinois General Assembly as part of an aggressive move to mollify show organizers who were hearing increasing complaints from their customers about the cost and “hassle factor” of exhibiting at McCormick Place. While Chicago has a reputation of being friendly to organized labor, the threat of an exodus of key shows to Orlando and Las Vegas prompted the legislature to quickly pass a package of changes that were cheered by the exhibition industry.

“We made changes last year in direct response to what our customers demanded,” said Jim Reilly, MPEA trustee. “Working in partnership with labor, we have overcome some of the biggest obstacles to our efforts to lure new shows to the city.”

The changes led to some show organizers backing away from the idea of moving. The National Restaurant Association decided to stay put and the Health Care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) said it would return to the Windy City in 2015 and 2019 after relocating its 2011 show to Las Vegas.  The city also bagged new business including Solar Power International 2013, The American Society of Anesthesiologists in 2016 and the Professional Convention Management Association in 2015.

The Teamsters and Carpenters, however, balked and went to court to challenge what they said was an illegal intrusion upon their contracts with the general services contractors. The unions said publicly that while they were keenly interested in keeping Chicago competitive, any changes to their contracts should be made through collective bargaining rather than a mandate from Springfield.

In March, a federal judge agreed with the unions that the legislature’s actions violated the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits government from mandating changes to contracts between unions and a private employer.

The MPEA launched an appeal while at the same time began negotiations with the Teamsters and Carpenters. The riggers and electricians unions reached separate agreements that included many of the changes sought by the industry.

Next Step for Chicago
Welsh said the CCTB would embark on a new push to sign up trade shows for McCormick Place. A city fund had been established to carry the message about the reforms to show organizers, he said.

“The fund will be used to promote the value of the work rule changes to prospective show managers and the trade show industry,” said Welsh. “Trade shows and exhibitors will not in any way be asked to contribute to this fund.

Reach Don Welsh at (312) 567-8588 or; Jim Reilly at (312) 791-7500 or; Joe Popolo at(214) 445-1000 or; John Patronski at (773) 284-5398 or

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