Tuesday, April 05, 2011

McCormick Place: Unions forcing the rise of a Chicago exhibit hall's fall

Now I'm a union man
Amazed at what I am
I say what I think, that the company stinks
Yes I'm a union man

When we meet in the local hall
I'll be voting with them all
With a hell of a shout, it's "Out brothers, out!"
And the rise of the factory's fall
Strawbs, "Part Of The Union," 1973

Factory's fall, trade show hall's fall...what difference does it make when you are unemployed?

It's time for a follow up to my series on union abuses in Chicago's convention industry.

For many years exhibitors, make that customers, have been terrorized by union goons at the Near South Side McCormick Place exhibit hall. Carpenters have charged exorbitant rates for the simplest of tasks. Trade show drayage is another racket. Two years ago an exhibitor was charged $345 so four cases of Pepsi--which goes for about $10 a case--could be lugged from the doors of McCormick Place to his booth during the Plastics Show.

After four decades in the city, the Plastics Show abandoned Chicago for Orlando.

The rise of the hall's fall.

That departure, and the threat from other shows to bolt from Chicago, forced the state to enact exhibitor-friendly work rule reforms. But last week a federal judge threw out the new legislation; the Teamsters Union filed suit to have the law overturned--stating that the General Assembly had no right to interfere with collective bargaining agreements.

For now the new rules remain in effect. But if more shows leave, there will be a lot of unemployed Teamsters and union carpenters. And the "little people" the unions claim to champion, the waiters, cab drivers, and room attendants--they will end up with smaller paychecks.

If they have them at all.

Related posts:

General Assembly overrides Quinn veto on convention reform, blocks Teamster pay-to-play bid
Trade show industry to Chicago: Change--or we leave
Reputed mobster charged with rigging bids at Chicago convention center
Daley looking at partial McCormick Place privatization
Chicago's convention authority: Losing trade shows, padding the payrolls
Union work rules driving trade shows from Chicago
Mayor Daley denounces price gouging at city's convention center
Electrical services costs at Chicago trade show "four to eight times" what they were in Orlando
Dallas wins out over Chicago for new trade show
Chicago's mounting trade show woes
Chicago Tribune: A third major trade show may bail on Chicago
Union "tyranny of the few" drives Plastics Show from Chicago
Marathon Pundit on CBS 2 Chicago
Agency that runs Chicago's convention centers "in deep financial hole"
Union extortionists may drive another trade show from Chicago

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Anonymous said...

As a former resudent of IL who voted with his feet last year and now resides in Florida, I welcome all you new exhibitors moving from Chicago to Orlando. The weather is better. The people nicer. The atmosphere much more pro-liberty than in IL.

AND, it won't cost you $345 to carry in 4 cases of Pepsi.

THANKS, GREEDY UNIONS! *YOU* are the reason we don't have a state income tax!

Jackie said...

Anyone with a blog these days thinks they're content experts as a result.

That guy delivering that aforementioned Pepsi -- Do you think he sawthat $345 for those four cases? You and I both know the answer to that. Along the way there are multiple markups till the customer sees the $345 tab. Same thing, forexample, with a carpenter. Do you think he/she is seeing that wage often cited in the media? Count the markups along the way before that carpenter sees his/her paycheck. You do know that the two huge, national contractors (Freeman and GES) hike that hourly labor wage before submitting the bill to the customer...right? Yet it's easier to simply say "union goons" rather than actually caring enough about this to do the research. Anyone can recirculate information already out there and throw it into a blog.

Since I'm told that all comments must be approved by the moderator, I hardly expect these counter-arguments to appear publicly. But at least you know not everyone agrees with your content.

John Ruberry said...

Jackie...If you read some of the earlier posts, you will learn that I used to work in the convention business in Chicago, although not at McCormick Place. I have worked on projects with GES and Freeman. Yes, I am aware that the general contractor collects roughly half of the $345. But it's union stewards who keep an eye on this madness, and it is they, or the Teamster, who submits the work order with the labor fees to GES or Freeman.

As for the Pepsi, the exhibitor may have had the choice to order it from the hall's food purveyor, where he would pay restaurant-level prices for it. I worked for years in the hotel business, it is industry standard to charge "corkage," a fee to bring in outside beverages such as wine for a banquet. Granted it was in the 1990s when I last did that kind of work, but we charged $2 a bottle.

And finally, would a non-union hall charge, let's say in Orlando, charge $345 to lug some Pepsi? Would they charge anything? Oh, GES and Freeman run shows in Orlando too.

For a couple of years I sold exhibit space for a trade show that met each year at McCormick Place. Once a day I would hear from someone who said, "I am not going to Chicago because of those unions." And the word "goon" would come up.

As for approving comments, I only do that to keep out the spam, which your thoughts clearly are not.

Jackie said...

John, I feel compelled to make my point using some of your own words. It's not with animosity I do this--even as contentious as this issue is in Chicago--but with a request for fairness and proper communication, particularly if you're going to serve as an information source on the Web. And I can't stress enough that you get your hands on the federal court ruling and learn exactly what the judge said in this case. The quick "fix" to address the Chicago trade show panic was for the Metropolitan Pier and Expo Authority (MPEA) and the state to slam the labor force trying to make a living setting up and dismantling these shows; however, while they won that early round --however unfair the legislation was to the working class -- the judge clearly saw how collective bargaining rights were trampled, MPEA ignored multiple other cost-saving measures, AND how the contractors were free to continue marking up at their discretion. This was an impartial federal court, not labor, not unions or not anyone else.

John, you said: "For many years exhibitors, make that customers, have been terrorized by union goons at the Near South Side McCormick Place exhibit hall. Carpenters have charged exorbitant rates for the simplest of tasks. Trade show drayage is another racket. Two years ago an exhibitor was charged $345 so four cases of Pepsi--which goes for about $10 a case--could be lugged from the doors of McCormick Place to his booth during the Plastics Show."

In your rebuttal you then said in some conversation you had years ago that the word "goon" would come up. So this makes all the union workers goons? Maybe this guy was a "pinhead." Does that make him and his colleagues and peers pinheads? C'mon...be fair in your comments. Aren't the contractors goons for their exorbitant markups? Aren't those responsible for the drayage--often cited as the greatest expense--also goons? Let's call a spade, a spade.

In your original statement you give the strong impression through your wording that carpenters/labor are the culprits for that outrageous $345 Pepsi price tag. It wasn't until I commented that you acknowledged, "Yes, I am aware that the general contractor collects roughly half of the $345." Why wasn't that part of your original statement? Truth in reporting, John. As for stewards submitting the work order and labor fees to the contractor, this is beyond my knowledge, I admit. But allow me to ask, Isn't it fair to say and even a given that those contractors are then jacking up those costs to exhibitors? Of course it is; this is exactly what the court saw, stated and ruled.

Fairness and accuracy, John. Tell the whole story rather than perpetuating myths and fallacies.


John Ruberry said...

Thanks for your reply. With the exception of "corkage," charging to bring in soda to an exhibit booth isn't the norm in right-to-work states, and the charge certainly won't anywhere near $345.

Not, not all union members are goons.

Management of MPEA is complicit in these problems. Keep in mind Chicago is a Democratic city--and the politicians are beneficiaries of union largesse.

But unionizing as many tasks as possible has been a hallmark of the labor movement for over a century.

Jackie said...

MPEA is VERY complicit in these problems, you're dead-on right with that.

Not sure how deep I want to go into the political realm, but union workers generally align with Dems and vice versa. But what's so wrong with that when Republicans, Big Oil, Corporations and the Super Wealthy have their hands in each other's pockets? At least Dems are fighting for the middle class. If I was Bill Gates, Charles Koch, Michael Bloomberg, etc., I'd have the Republican Party on speed dial.

Believe it or not but I'm a corporate guy, and I used to think much differently about unions. More than anything I consider myself a member of the "working class," and the more I've come to know about what unions initiated and built for the American working class, the more respect I bestow upon them and their collective bargaining rights. If terms are being negotiated, all they're doing is setting marketplace standards. It takes two sides to negotiate. If you followed the Chicago trade show articles you'll remember that union labor agreed to multiple rounds of concessions over the years as part of those negotiation sessions. And as the articles stated, those concessions were embraced by the industry.

Ashton Jones said...

There are many third party logistics out there. I thing drayage transporting are the most reliable. Probably worth looking into.