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Chicago Carpenters respond to appealed legislation

Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters President Frank Libby has called on the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) to drop the expensive litigation and begin a dialogue to find real solutions to the costs associated with doing business at McCormick Place.

“Legislation and expensive lawsuits will not solve the problems facing McCormick Place,” said Libby. “Only by sitting down and working together can we come up with fair and equitable solutions that will benefit our customers: the convention exhibitors.”

Libby’s comments followed the decision by the U.S. District Court that again sustained the union’s position that the legislation passed last year by the Illinois General Assembly, which in essence disregarded the employees fundamental collective bargaining rights on key issues such as wages, overtime, work rules and jurisdiction, was unconstitutional.

“I don’t understand why the MPEA apparently refuses to sit down and negotiate,” said Libby. “I have always been willing to sit down and discuss ways to improve the McCormick Place business model. Unfortunately, it appears the MPEA strategy seems to call for lawsuits and legislating instead of negotiating.

“While our day in court has ultimately proved gratifying and substantiates our position, we recognize that the favorable ruling does not solve the many issues defined by the judge and brought to light through recent media investigative reports. The working men and women won today, yet unless all parties involved match our interest to sit down and develop a meaningful solution to the cost issues at McCormick Place, there will be no winner in the Chicago tradeshow industry.”

The court’s decision followed on the heels of an extensive three-month investigative story published in last week’s Crain’s Chicago Business that exposed how show contractors are marking up costs to exhibitors—including labor costs—by 1,000 percent or more. The trade associations lease floor space from McCormick Place at between $1.30 and $1.80 per square foot, then turn around and charge exhibitors $20 to $40 per square foot. Shows totaling 300,000 square feet of exhibit space would pay McCormick Place up to $540,000, yet collect $12 million from exhibitors.

“Can someone explain to me how this is considered reform?” questioned Libby. “I read the story and it only reinforces my belief that our proposal for an exhibitor bill of rights, which includes greater billing transparency and independent third-party audits, must be part of any future reforms at McCormick Place.”

The unions proposed the “bill of rights” prior to the state and the MPEA pushing the legislation through.

“We stand behind this proposal again today for the all-important exhibitors, the Chicago trade show industry and the state of Illinois,” said Libby. “It’s about time that the exhibitors, who without them there are no conventions, get the respect and protections they deserve.”

Related News: Judge denies MPEA appeal


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