Leading Show Organizers Join Chicago Officials for MPEA’s Announcement on Sweeping New Labor Changes


L to R: Phil Stefani, Chairman of the CCTB; Christopher Bowers, CEO of the CCTB; Charles Yuska, President, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute; Mia Rampersad, Director of Meetings and Tradeshows, International Housewares Association; A.J. Janosko, Director of Trade Show Operations,  Supercomm ; Mary Pat Heftman, V.P. Convention Services, National Restaurant Association; Peter Eelman, V.P. of Expositions for the Association of Manufacturing Technology;  Leticia Peralta Davis, CEO of the MPEA; Theodore R. Tetzlaff, Chairman of the MPEA Board; and David R. Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place.

Groundbreaking New Labor Rules Unveiled  May 4th in Chicago

Chicago –   New labor rules favorable to show organizers and exhibitors will soon take effect at  Chicago’s McCormick Place. The changes re-define “straight time” work; the ability of exhibitors to hang signs and hook up electrical connections in their booth;  the size of crews; and other new work rules.  The announcement was made  May 4th  by Leticia Peralta  Davis, CEO of  the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority which owns and operates McCormick Place.

“This is a new day for McCormick Place, one which means lower costs, greater flexibility and more efficient shows for customers,” says Davis.

The changes were agreed to by MPEA in conjunction with Chicago area labor unions and the major service contractors who operate at McCormick Place.  Here is what will change under the new rules:

  • Definition of “straight time.” All union jurisdictions agreed that straight time rates will begin at  6 am, 7 am or 8 am,  based on the show organizer’s preference.
  • Exhibitors will be able to perform some set-up work.  No matter what their booth size is, exhibitors can perform a wide variety of activities from hanging signs to hooking up electrical connections –– without the assistance of union personnel.
  • Crew sizes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Rather than assigning a set number of personnel to a forklift, for example, decisions to allocate workers will be made on an individual basis during a pre-show meeting.
  • A new position has been created for high-tech requirements. “Audio-visual delivery technicians”  will now handle exhibitors’  high-tech needs inside of their booths and will be paid 60% of  journeymen’s wages.

Labor Management Council Can Implement Changes as Time Goes On

A highlight of the agreement is a new Labor Management Council that will have broad authority to design and implement changes on a continuous basis. MPEA officials, union reps, contractors and customers will serve on the council. The council will review issues related to cost efficiency and the overall show experience, and  will have the authority to initiate and review audits of the billing process.

Not a Paper Tiger

The new agreement also establishes a formalized auditing process to review bills submitted by the service contractors to show organizers. An auditor will review the invoices sent by contractors after the show and the findings will be shared with members of the Labor Management Council   Individual exhibitors may file formal complaints. A penalty  may be assessed if a contractor  fails to pass on the savings. Davis says,  “The auditing process serves as a guarantee that these changes will exist not only on paper but in practice.”

Significant Savings for Some

Some of the changes announced today in the Chicago labor agreement, such as those related to straight time, will be effective immediately. The first show to benefit will be the National Restaurant Association’s The Restaurant Show, which will take place May 21–24.

David Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place and a member of the new council, offers an example of what savings a a show might expect as a result of the newly created Audio-Visual Technician. A large show with heavy activity planned Thursday through Sunday — 2 days at straight time, 1 at time-and-a-half and 1 at double time — and employing 15 people per day, can expect a savings under the new agreement of about $20,000, he estimates. “That’s a significant amount of money,” says Causton.

Those savings are designed to make Chicago more competitive, though whether it will lure back departed “Blue Chip” shows is questionable. “The only show that has left Chicago has been the National Hardware Show, which was influenced more by changes occurring in the hardware industry than factors related to the convention industry,” says Causton.

Who’s on the Council?

The size and members of the new Labor Management Council has not yet been finalized, but its purpose has. “This is the first step of an ongoing process. We will continue to figure out ways to be more efficient and decrease costs,” says David Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place, and a member of the council.

Causton notes that the  term “customer” encompasses show managers, exhibitors and attendees. Customer service will be one focus of the new body; another will be implementation of the long-term goals of the agreement announced today, particularly the creation of a training program.

Council Representatives


John Patronski, GES

Bob Lozier, Freeman



Letitia Peralta Davis, CEO, MPEA

David Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place








Customers who have expressed interest in participating:

Mary Pat Heftman, National Restaurant Association/The Restaurant Show


Jim Pittas, Packing Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI)/PACK EXPO


Reach Leticia Peralta Davis, CEO, MPEA at (312) 791-6288 or ldavis@mpea.com; David Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place, (312) 791-7000 or dcauston@mpea.com.