This Just In

Union Claims New Reform Laws Are Unconstitutional


Chicago, IL – Five days after passage of legislation intended to reform business at McCormick Place, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters filed suit to halt implementation of the new law. Alleging it violates the Federal and Illinois state constitutions, the complaint claims the act bypassed the rights of workers to use collective bargaining to resolve contractual issues.

“The current legislation will have a devastating effect upon the carpenters who have earned their living working at McCormick Place and Navy Pier for many years. This lawsuit…is about the men and women working in this industry and their Federally protected rights to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment without governmental interference,” stated the union in its announcement of the suit.

In an appearance on ABC 7’s NewsViews with Alan Krashesky, Frank T. Libby, president and executive secretary/treasurer of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, acknowledges that the unions have excellent bargaining agreements in Chicago but suggests the added cost of convention business in the city is not due to labor. Rather, the use of exclusives as a profit center and the markups added by contractors and show managers have contributed to increasing costs more.

Industry watchers think there is a possibility the carpenters will win because Federal labor laws do protect unions from third-party interference into collective bargaining agreements. However, the Governor’s veto failed to stop passage, and there is strong legislative support, which will not affect constitutionality but does indicate a commitment to reform.

Showing even greater commitment, McCormick Place is beginning the process of implementation, starting with an analysis of what needs to be done. Some of these items were included in a letter written to customers by David Causton, McCormick Place’s general manager, the same day the suit was announced. Things to do range from finding space for exhibitors to load and unload their vehicles (which was not previously allowed) to developing new rules and definitions, to updating written materials, such as license agreements, guidelines and exhibitor manuals.

For this reason, Causton asked for patience while the full-scale implementation plan is finalized. In addition, although it did not mention the lawsuit, the letter did state that, “Until further notice, [customers] should continue to rely on existing agreements, arrangements, practices and policies.”


Below is a full copy of Causton’s letter to customers.

Reach Frank T. Libby at (312) 787-3076 or; David Causton at (312) 791-7000 or







MAY 27, 2010


TO:     All Show Owners, Managers and Organizers

All General Service Contractors and Other Service Contractors

All Exhibitor Appointed Contractors and Other Companies

All Exhibitors

FROM:           David R. Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place

CC:      James R. Reilly, Trustee, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority

Tim V. Roby, President and CEO, Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

DATE:            June 3, 2010



Dear Stakeholders:

On behalf the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, I am proud to announce that a new day has dawned in the Chicago convention industry.  On May 27, 2010, the Illinois General Assembly enacted historic legislation in response to your demands for a sweeping transformation in the way business is conducted on MPEA premises.  As a result of this legislation, show management, contractors and exhibitors will realize immediate and long-term benefits, and Chicago will become an even more competitive and attractive destination for conventions, trade shows, expositions and meetings.

While this legislation is effective upon enactment, the implementation process has only just begun.  Preliminary preparations have long been underway, and the Authority will soon finalize a full-scale implementation plan in cooperation with its key partners.  Certain changes will be implemented promptly.  Other changes are wholesale modifications to the way business is conducted on our premises and thus will require a lengthier implementation period.  The following examples illustrate the myriad complex tasks now required:

  • While the legislation expands the type of work that exhibitors may perform in their booths, it directs the Authority to develop rules and regulations to ensure that these new exhibitor rights are exercised consistent with the training and safety requirements for such work.
  • Exhibitors may now unload and load privately owned vehicles using non-motorized hand trucks and dollies in areas designated by MPEA for such purposes.  The Authority must evaluate the logistics of this new policy and identify the areas where such unloading and loading may occur safely.
  • The legislation establishes new rules governing when show managers and contractors may charge exhibitors for labor services on a straight-time, time-and-one-half or double-time basis and how such services must be billed.  The implementation of this provision will require an audit of current wage structures and a new communications piece regarding labor costs and billing practices.
  • While the legislation eliminates “stand-by labor” and requires all union stewards to be “working stewards,” it authorizes the Authority to exercise its discretion to determine whether more than one working steward may be necessary depending on the building or show at issue.  The Authority will develop protocols for evaluating when more than one working steward may be required.
  • The legislation establishes a new Advisory Council to represent the interests of all stakeholders and regularly advise the Authority on critical operations issues.  To illustrate, the Authority now has the legal right to determine the work jurisdictions of “show labor” and crew sizes when appropriate on MPEA premises.  The Authority may only, however, exercise these rights after consultation with the Advisory Council.  For this reason, the Advisory Council will be established as promptly as possible to facilitate a resolution of these important policy considerations.
  • At present, MPEA’s FOCUS One is the exclusive provider of electrical services to show managers and exhibitors.  By virtue of the legislation, MPEA may no longer serve as the exclusive provider, and customers may now choose either an in-house electrical contractor or an outside electrical contractor approved by the Authority.  The Authority will begin to develop a list of approved electrical contractors and modify the FOCUS One model to accommodate this change.
  • The legislation requires itemized billing statements for utility services provided by MPEA and establishes pricing guidelines for food and beverage contracts.  An audit of current practices and new communications pieces are necessary to implement this change.
  • The Authority is solely responsible for administering and enforcing these new legislative requirements and must now establish the necessary governing regulations and enforcement mechanisms, including procedures for audits and contract reviews.

As the above issues and others are resolved, the Authority and its partners will then be required to amend current agreements and substantially revise existing MPEA policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • License Agreements
  • Registration Agreements
  • Right of Entry Agreements
  • MPEA Meeting Planners Guides
  • Exhibitor Manuals
  • MPEA Facility Protection Guidelines
  • McCormick Place Exhibitor and Utility Ordering Guides
  • Informational Publications on the MPEA Website

Undoubtedly, a great deal of work remains to be accomplished.  MPEA and its partners embrace this challenge and reaffirm their commitment to implement this historic legislation in the most expeditious, efficient and communicative manner possible.  Until further notice, you should continue to rely on existing agreements, arrangements, practices and policies.  In the meantime, the Authority will continue to finalize the full-scale implementation plan and will communicate with you promptly upon its completion.

As has been said before, we are truly grateful for your support and diligence in this important endeavor and appreciate your insight and patience as we continue this collaborative venture.  The future of Chicago’s convention industry is bright, and the best is yet to come thanks to your dedication and commitment.

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