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Michigan’s Right-to-Work Bill Won’t Shake Up Trade Show Operations


Detroit, MI – The high-profile bill that turned Michigan into a right-to-work state will not have much impact on the presence of union workers and shop stewards at trade shows in the Great Lakes state, general service contractors agreed.

The legislation was spun by various media pundits as a body blow to the once unchallenged power which labor exerted in factories across Michigan. But when the dust settles, show organizers can expect union jurisdictions at Detroit’s Cobo Center and other unionized Michigan venues to remain in place, and union members and their work rules to continue to play a major role in move-in and move-outs.

“The legislation does not pertain to exhibitors’ rights,” said Jeff Quade, chief sales officer at Global Experience Specialists (GES). “That is already determined by the contractual relationship between the show organizer and the contractor.”

Backers of the right-to-work bill emphasized its passage would not scuttle or even legally weaken collective bargaining contracts already in place. That means show organizers whose shows run at Cobo Center can expect to find the same labor environment they would have found before the bill was signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Quade said there would likely be questions from exhibitors over what types of work they will be able to do themselves and what tasks are reserved for union workers. He predicted most exhibitors would be seasoned enough to realize union contracts and work rules remained in place, but said the portrayal of the bill in some media coverage as a union-busting tactic was causing some confusion. “We have trained our employees to understand exactly what right-to-work means,” Quade said. “It is a question we answer daily on the show floor.”Simply put, the Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. Some of the 24 right-to-work states with leading trade show venues include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas and now Michigan.

“This legislation in its present form will not have any impact on our way of doing business in Michigan, including our office in Detroit,” said Doug Van Ort, senior vice president at Freeman.

Exhibitors already enjoy a fair amount of freedom to do some money-saving work themselves during setup and tear down at Cobo Center in Detroit and the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.  Declaring Michigan a right-to-work state was aimed more at attracting new industry to the state and increasing employment.

Reach Jeff Quade at (702) 515-8625; Doug Van Ort at 773-379-5040 or;Thom Connors, general manager of Cobo Center, at (313) 877-8777 or

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