MPEA to Appeal Work Rule Set-Back

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Chicago, IL – The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) said it would appeal a federal court judge’s ruling June 22 that blocks the new work rules at Chicago’s McCormick Place. MPEA said it would ask an appellate court to grant a stay that would keep the new rules in effect while it appeals a lower court’s ruling that the new rules had been improperly imposed on McCormick Place by the Illinois legislature in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

On June 22, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman denied MPEA’s request for a stay of his earlier ruling while the appeal is under way. “We are compelled to take the next step,” said MPEA Trustee Jim Reilly. “We will be asking the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay while we present our case as to why Judge Guzman’s ruling should be overturned.”

In a letter sent to show organizers the day before Guzman’s ruling, MPEA pledged to continue fighting to keep the labor reforms in place. “Today we are committing to provide you the certainty you need to bring your show to our state,” said the letter, which was signed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other political leaders.

Global Experience Specialists (GES) said it was “disappointed” by Guzman’s ruling and would seek to preserve as much of the reform legislation as possible. “We expect to work with all the parties involved to find alternative solutions for reinstating the changes our customers demanded last year,” said John Patronski, executive vice president of industry development for GES.

The new work rules that were passed by the Illinois State Assembly last year were widely cheered by the trade show industry as an absolutely necessary step to cut exhibitor costs and prevent a mass exodus of shows from McCormick Place. But the Teamsters and Carpenters unions filed a challenge to the new rules, alleging they had been imposed by lawmakers when they instead should have been negotiated.

The unions are considered private-sector employees since their contracts are formally with the general services contractors that handle McCormick Place shows and not with MPEA. The unions argued the NLRA prohibits lawmakers from passing mandates that interfere with those contracts.

Guzman agreed that the lack of negotiations with the unions violated the NLRA. He said the MPEA knew it was taking a risk by implementing them anyway and that union members who have lost hours on the job due to reduced crew sizes should not have to see their incomes reduced during the appeals process, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Teamsters Local 727 and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters said after the ruling they were willing to negotiate reforms. The question remained as whether or not individual show organizers would, or could, seek to nullify contracts for future events they had booked on the assumption the more favorable work rules would be in effect.

Reilly said the legislature’s reforms had been a significant factor in lining up business for McCormick Place and that keeping the new work rules in effect was critical. “The importance of the city’s convention industry as an economic engine can’t be overstated,” he said. “Far too much has occurred since the reforms were put in place for this to be left to the days of the past.”

Reach Jim Reilly at (312) 791-7500 or jreilly@mpea.com; John Patronski at (773) 284-5398 or jpatronski@ges.com