Wednesday, April 27, 2011

McCormick Place Labor Reform: Carpenters Union Joins the Conversation

Last week I published an article providing updated information regarding the ongoing Labor Reform challenges at McCormick Place (and Navy Pier) in Chicago.  Surprisingly (to me at least) the blog article sparked significant interest across the industry as it has received more than 700 click-throughs (hits).  (425 on Monday alone)

My blog post apparently also caught the attention of at least one Chicago Union Leader.  Frank T. Libby, President of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, contacted me to discuss his union’s view on this situation.  We had a good conversation.  At my suggestion Frank later added his thoughts to the comments section of the aforementioned blog article.

Frank questions why there aren’t “markup limits” imposed upon Show Contractors, who ultimately deliver inflated pricing to exhibitors, including for labor.  Great question!  He also feels the core issue hindering Chicago’s ability to compete with other first tier cities has to do with how McCormick Place is funded.

“The heart of the problem is that McCormick Place is at a serious financial disadvantage to our competitors in Las Vegas and Orlando to name just a few. Those convention facilities receive substantial financial commitments from their respective cities and states. Because of those large financial commitments they are better positioned to ensure lower overall costs to exhibitors. This is the number one problem that needs to be addressed and solved.Frank T. Libby, President, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters

I contacted the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) to provide them with an opportunity to weigh in on this topic.  At this time they have chosen not to officially comment on the situation, until the current legal review has run its course.  However, a resolution of this matter is high on their priority list.

Regardless of their viewpoints, all sides clearly have “skin in the game” and understand what’s at stake for the City of Chicago.  The undeniable truth is if this struggle is not resolved, fairly and equitably, everyone loses.  The city, the convention centers, the labor force, the contractors, and of course, customers, will all feel the pain.  No one wants that!

If the “stay” is denied, and Judge Guzman’s recent ruling (March 31) overturning some pieces of the 2010 legislation is upheld, some organizations who decided to hold their conventions in Chicago, based upon the labor reforms, may reconsider their choice of convention cities.  I sincerely hope that does not happen.

In his closing paragraph to his comments on my blog Mr. Libby stated, “I commit today—as I have in the past—that I am ready, willing and available to sit down with the state, the city, the MPEA (McCormick Place) and all other interested parties to begin a dialogue. A dialogue that must lead to real meaningful solutions to the financial issues at McCormick Place. The cost of failing to do so is too great.

Amen to that!





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