This Just In

First the Riggers, Now the Decorators’ Union Signs New Labor Agreement in Chicago


Chicago – Following more than four months of intense negotiations, a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement with Chicago’s Decorators Union was announced today by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), GES Exposition Services, Freeman and the United Steelworkers Local 17 Decorators Union. Key provisions of the contract include new straight-time windows, reduced crew sizes, random drug testing and expanded management rights. The agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2006 and expires June 30, 2011.

Four months ago, Chicago’s Riggers Union Local 136  signed a similar contract. Both agreements mark another major step forward in the history of labor management relations at McCormick  Place and Navy Pier. (For more information on the Riggers Union news, go to Trade Show Executive magazine’s Vault of Eclips ® Breaking News at or the June issue of Trade Show Executive magazine).

“Chicago is on a roll,” said Peter Eelman, vp of exhibitions for the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which is Chicago’s largest show at nearly 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space. “In the space of just a few months, we’ve seen the retention or attraction of major shows and significant labor reforms such as those announced today..……   Exhibitors will save money, show managers will have an improved show experience, and set-up and tear-down will be more efficient than ever.”   The IMTS runs September 6-13 and will be the first major show to be impacted by the changes.

“Chicago’s reputation as the world’s premier convention destination is rooted in the city’s skilled workforce,” said Ted Tetzlaff, Chairman of the MPEA.  “I commend the Decorators for doing their part as we continue to grow an industry that’s so important to the city and state economy.”

Tony DeGrado, President of Local 17 Decorators Union said, “Our agreement to an unprecedented five-year contract will help the exhibition industry in Chicago.  My members take pride in the quality of their work and believe this agreement will draw even more business and jobs to the conventions, trade shows and hotel facilities throughout Illinois.” The agreement was a win-win situation for both parties.  De Grado said the contract protects the seniority rights of the union’s  members and gives them job security and a decent standard of living.

Key features of the new contract:

  • Multiple start times: The new contract establishes two start times — 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.  — for crews Monday through Friday, with the first eight hours at straight time. Time worked on Saturday will be at time and a half rather than double time for the first eight hours. In addition, the first four hours following the break of a show will be billed at straight time.
  • Clearly defined language on reduced crew sizes: The new agreement clearly defines the jobs requiring two-person crews and those requiring three-person crews. For example, if a hanging banner is less than 8 feet wide, it can be installed with a  two-person crew. Three-sided, four-sided and circular signs still require a team of three.
  • Random drug testing:  The current drug testing policy at MPEA properties will be amended to include  random drug testing, administered by a third party, effective January 1, 2007.
  • Expanded management rights: General service contractors now have greater authority to direct the work force. This ranges from assigning workers to disciplinary matters.
  •  Wages/benefits: The Decorators and contractors agreed to increased wages and benefits over the term of the contract, including a $3 hour raise, retroactive to July 1.

Leticia Peralta Davis, CEO of the MPEA, said the establishment of a new Labor Management Council was a key step in ensuring ongoing dialogue among McCormick Place management, employees, contractors and customers that contributed to the agreement announced today.

Tim Roby, president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, said, “Chicago is committed to providing value to all customers and this latest labor agreement is proof positive.”

Trade Show Executive will provide continuing coverage of this news

TSE Data Center