Sunday, November 01, 2009

Union extortionists may drive another trade show from Chicago

Well, it's sundown on the union
And what's made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
'Til greed got in the way.

Bob Dylan, "Union Sundown," 1983.

Chicago once was the trade show capital of America, no city came even close. According to Tradeshow Week, it's now in third place, trailing Orlando and Las Vegas. There is just one reason for this--union greed. Yes, Orlando has Disney World, and Vegas, is well, Vegas, but the off-floor attractions of those cities are a drawback to some exhibitors. If you're selling a product, do you want buyers trolling the Strip or entertaining their families at the Happiest Place in the World? Or would prefer them walking the aisles of Chicago's McCormick Place?

In the 1980s and 1990s, I worked as a convention service manager at several Chicago hotels. We charged exhibitors, many of whom were small businesses, $45 an hour for carpenter labor to erect booths, including pop-up displays that a semi-intelligent schnauzer could set up. No tools are needed for pop-ups. At night and weekends, we charged even more. Some of that money the hotel kept, but most, went to cover the wages, benefits, and taxes of the carpenters.

Exhibitors told me that Chicago was "still an Al Capone town," and "run by extortionists," or "a goon city."

I did the payroll, and a funny thing--many of those union carpenters had the same last names. Yet another Chicago "coincidence."

Since then there have been some minor relaxation of union work rules, but the goons still rule the roost on the trade show floors.

The big convention money of course is at Chicago's convention Valhalla, McCormick Place. As well as the big rackets. And another major trade show, the NPE, better known as the Plastics Show, might put Chicago in its rear view mirror.

From Plastics News:

McCormick Place has been home to NPE since 1971, but SPI (Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.), which organizes the show, is looking at alternatives this year because of complaints by exhibitors about high costs and labor union rules. Such complaints happen after every NPE, but the tough economy made it harder to take this year, they said.

Chicago has one big advantage: It is centrally located in the heart of the U.S. plastics industry, with a large number of attendees who can drive to the show. Florida has a smaller plastics sector, but a booming tourist economy in Orlando, thanks to attractions like Disney World — and it is a right-to-work state.

Tourism officials from both cities are tight-lipped. "We put a bid in for it. Now we're waiting for SPI to make their decision. We won't discuss what our proposal is," said Brian Martin, spokesman for the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

If you think I am going overboard with my use of "extortionists" in my headline, this paragraph might change your mind:

Tim Hanrahan wrote a column for Plastics News complaining that McCormick Place charged his company, Erema North America Inc., $345 to deliver four cases of Pepsi to Erema's booth during NPE2009.

Besides my time in the hospitality industry, I also did some telemarketing work for some trade shows, some of which exhibited in Chicago. Business people from all over the country told me similar stories--some of them emphatically told me they would never buy booth space in Chicago as long as they had a say in the matter.

Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley, still smarting from the Olympics debacle, met with the CEO of SPI in hopes of convincing him to keep the Plastics Show in the city on the lake.

But don't expect much. Big labor is a major financial contributor to his political war chest.

That Pepsi won't taste any better if NPE moves to Orlando, but it will seem that way.

In Washington, President Obama and congressional Democrats want for workers to join unions by putting into law the Orwellian-named "Employee Free Choice Act."

For more on EFCA, see the below entries.

Related posts:

Do not let Sen. Evan Bayh kill jobs
Labor looks to Bonoir to fix its problems
Union boss threatens lawmakers on EFCA
WSJ: Beware of the new Employee Free Choice Act
Report from the bloggers' conference call about EFCA with Rep. Tom Price
Union members: More equal than others in Obama's America
EFCA still sub-sixty?
Compromise on card check coming?
Report from the bloggers' conference call on EFCA and cash for union coffers
Report from the bloggers' conference call on EFCA and under-funded pensions
SEIU prez: Union spent $60.7 million to elect Obama
George McGovern: "The ‘Free Choice’ Act Is Anything But"
Report from the bloggers' conference call about Employee FORCED Choice binding arbitration
Report from the bloggers' conference call about card check
Former union organizer talks about card check
Minority business groups coming out against card check
Sen. Mitch McConnell on card check
Financially ailing AFL-CIO funding push for Obama's health care plan
Nonsense from a South Dakota AFL-CIO official about card check
Report from the bloggers' conference call with Rep. John Kline talking about EFCA
Card check update: "A mortal threat to American freedom"
Blagojevich and union "card check"
Employee "free choice" may drive economic uncertainty

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Crazy Politico said...

My company is a major exhibitor at NPE every year, two booths in 2009 due to an acquisition of an Italian firm.

It'll be a bummer if it moves out of Chicago, but we'll go where ever the show goes. I just probably won't get to attend if it moves too far away.

Calculon said...

I used to work for a Union Construction company.

People at my company felt the Unions are the main cause behind all the residential development around the loop.

Companies are fleeing and being replaced by residences and retailers that don't have to pay the high cost of Union wages.

When I was there years ago, we suddenly started fielding tons of calls from residential customers who had no interest in paying union rates and less bids from companies looking to build offices.