This Just In

New Labor Agreement Signed with Five Unions in Detroit


Detroit – Exhibitors, organizers and unions that work the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Cobo Center in Detroit are all winners in the just-announced labor agreement for the Motor City’s biggest exhibition.  That is the consensus following the signing of a contract on October 6th between the show organizers and the five labor unions working at the annual automotive extravaganza.

The groundbreaking labor pact was first conceived in August 2004, according to Bill Cook, Chairman Emeritus for the 2005 show (held last January) and lead negotiator for the organizer.  “A long summer (2005) of negotiation, re-writing and reasoning culminated in the final contract signed by all five unions and the NAIAS in late September,” Cook explained.  “Each union had its ‘special wrinkles,’ and I take my hat off to them for coming together as they did.”

The five-year contract introduces work rule reforms that provide more flexibility for exhibitors.  For example:

  • Crew size will be determined by the contractor, based on safety and work requirements.
  • Exhibitors have the option to complete small jobs that formerly required union workers such as changing light bulbs and plugging in equipment —  tasks that were often the theme of exhibitor “horror stories.”
  • The pact introduces staggered work hours which will reduce the need for overtime work.  Specifically, the agreement calls for three shifts with shift differentials rather than overtime. The first shift begins at 7 a.m.


New Agreement Reduces Exhibitor Costs and Creates More Union Jobs

The agreement will not only reduce expenses for exhibitors, but  also create an estimated 500 additional jobs, union officials estimate.        Ralph Mabry, who emerged as spokesman for the five unions, said that he viewed the agreement as further proof of the “partnership” that exists between labor and the show management. Mabry is Executive Secretary of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Teamsters Local 299. “All of the unions want to move away from the negativity that became attached to Detroit and Cobo Center,” said Mabry.  “I see this new contract as another step in the revitalization of Detroit as a meeting and exhibition center.   I envision this cost-saving move as an attraction to many of the shows that have left Detroit and an incentive for them to return here again.”

That sentiment was also voiced by Jim Townsend, Director of the Tourism Economic Development Council in Detroit, a council made up of the Mayor; the president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; the chairman and president of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau; and other officials.   Townsend said the labor deal will add new luster to the annual auto show and “convince other show organizers that there is a new spirit of doing business in Detroit.” While this agreement applies only to the auto show, Townsend said, “The sales people will certainly work to make the auto show contract a model for other organizers short-listing Detroit for their shows.”

In addition to the Carpenters and Millwrights Union, the other parties to the new work rules include the Ironworkers Local 25; Detroit State Employees Union; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 38; and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 58.

The agreement also provides for a Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC), comprised of the NAIAS contractor representatives and union representatives.  The LMCC will review issues as necessary and will allow for the agreement to continually adapt to challenges that the NAIAS contractors and its union partners encounter.

The 2005 NAIAS spanned over 700,000 square feet of exhibit space and drew over 773,422 consumer visitors, 35,711 industry executives and 6,896 media from 61 countries. The show is critical to  Detroit:  the estimated economic impact of the event on the local economy was $580 million this year. The glitzy show featured every automotive manufacturer who collectively spent an estimated  $200 million on their exhibits.

Reach Bill Cook, Chairman Emeritus, NAIAS at (586) 904-9620; Jim Townsend, Executive Director, TEDC at (313) 202-1970 or; Ralph Mabry, Executive Secretary of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Teamsters Local 299,  at (810) 623-1411.

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