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Chicago Gains Two | Philly Acts Like a Tool

Let’s Play Two Today

Two of the nation’s most prestigious and lucrative trade shows have re-upped at McCormick Place, thanks to two rounds of work-rule changes that made the convention center more competitive. The combined National Restaurant Association and Hotel-Motel Show has signed a five-year extension that will keep the show (which had threatened to leave Chicago) at McCormick Place from 2017 through 2021. National Restaurant Association officials credit the cost-cutting work-rule changes for making the agreement possible.

The show is expected to result in “direct expenditures” of more than $600 million through 2020 and put roughly 1,650 union members to work in each of those years.

The biennial International Manufacturing Technology Show has signed on for two more years — in 2018 and 2020. This is expected to result in $346 million in direct spending and 2,000 union jobs in each of those two years.

The work-rule changes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn brokered with the Teamsters and Carpenters unions allowed the McPier Authority to create an “exhibitors bill of rights” that lets show managers and exhibitors set up their own booths with simple tools. Exhibitors also can drive and unload their own vehicles at McCormick Place, and union work can be done by two-person crews instead of the old three-person minimum.

The Right Tool for the Job

Until late September, the pharmaceutical and biotech convention Interphex was in talks to bring its annual 10,000-person event to Philadelphia in 2014. According to Philly Convention & Visitors Bureau officials, Interphex was looking at Philadelphia as a more cost-effective option than its 2013 destination, the Javits Center in Manhattan.

Way back in 2003, the leaders of the six local unions that work at the Convention Center signed a 21-page Customer Satisfaction Agreement (CSA) dedicated to “creating and maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction.” In addition to laying out some ground rules for union members’ behavior, the CSA also spells out rules and “rights” for the exhibitors.

The Interphex people took issue with a particular clause: Exhibit C, Paragraph E, Subsection 1: An exhibitor “may use hand tools … but not power tools including battery operated tools, or ladders.” So, yeah, no power screwdrivers. Officials of the Convention Center Authority’s board of directors, attempted to accommodate Interphex’s needs by making available a small group of screwdriver-toting union carpenters free of charge. But for the Interphex people, it was more of the principle behind the rule; the show turned its back on Philadelphia, stating that until the antiquated rules in the building changed, they would not return.

The Customer Satisfaction Agreement between the unions and the Convention Center will expire on July 14, 2013. The Convention Center Authority’s Customer Satisfaction Committee are currently mulling over potential changes to the CSA, pending a proposal to the board followed by union negotiations. Until then, Philly is “screwed,” in the eyes of Interphex.




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