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Pennsylvania CC Expands Exhibitor Labor Rights

Building on a shared commitment to the success of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, facility leaders and their show floor trade partners signed a labor agreement extension that builds on the competitive work rules and expanded exhibitor rights that were first put in place in a groundbreaking agreement that was approved in May 2014.

The expanded exhibitor rights went into effect Aug. 1. The Pennsylvania Convention Center’s website (www.paconvention.com) will be updated with additional information on how customers can take advantage of the expanded exhibitor rights contained in the agreement.

The extended labor agreement, known as the Customer Satisfaction Agreement (CSA), will empower exhibitors to erect and tear down their own exhibit booths regardless of booth size. This represents a significant change from the current practice, which limited that work by exhibitors to booths that were 600 square feet or smaller in size.

The agreement also continues the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s distinctive practice of only assessing overtime charges for trade labor after eight hours of work on weekdays, regardless of start time. This is a major differentiator from other large convention centers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast which assess overtime charges or variable labor rates for work performed outside of the 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm window on weekdays.

The extension of the Customer Satisfaction Agreement was signed by the four show floor labor unions that have contributed to the renewed success of the facility over the past five years: Laborers’ International Local 332, IATSE Local 8 (stagehands), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98, and Iron Workers Local 405. The agreement will be in place until May 2029.

“As a result of the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s strong partnership with trade labor, our facility will have the most progressive exhibitor rights of any major urban convention center in the Northeast,” says Gregory Fox, chair of the center’s board of directors. “We are partners with a common goal of delivering meeting planners, exhibitors, and attendees the best possible experience and value. We know that strong customer service and cost-savings improve our competitiveness and put us in a position to make every customer a repeat customer.”

The May 2014 labor agreement was praised within the conventions and meetings industry for its significant expansion of exhibitor rights. The work rules empowered exhibitors to perform more work within their own booths without the assistance of trade labor.

For example, it permitted exhibitors to use power tools and ladders (up to 6 feet in height) to erect and tear down exhibit booths that were 600 square feet or smaller in size. This policy enabled exhibitors to reduce their labor costs, making the Pennsylvania Convention Center more attractive to meeting planners. The extended CSA builds on that progressive policy by allowing exhibitors to perform that work without any limits on maximum booth size.

“The five-year extension of the game-changing Customer Satisfaction Agreement between the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the signatory unions of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council ensures that Philadelphia will remain one of the most desirable convention destinations in the country for the foreseeable future,” says John Dougherty, chairman of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council.  “The number of new and returning customers is evidence that word of our success continues to spread throughout the convention and hospitality industry.”

“The success of the Convention Center over the past five years provided us the opportunity to extend the agreement to offer our customers stability and guaranteed cost,” saiys Michael Barnes, business manager for IATSE Local 8. “This, along with the new changes to the agreement, will continue to put the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the top of every meeting planner’s list of cities to book their shows.”

“We understand that a successful convention center fuels increased demand for the services of our members while also creating new job opportunities for Philadelphians who work in the region’s hospitality industry,” saiys Samuel Staten, Jr., business manager for Laborers Local 332. “This extension of our labor agreement shows that the trade unions are committed to ensuring the Center remains competitive.”

Another key element of the center’s transformation in recent years was the decision to contract with SMG to oversee and manage the day-to-day operations of the facility.  Over the course of the past five years, SMG has added hospitality industry expertise to PCC’s existing staff; streamlined services; implemented programs to assist customers with their event planning; increased billing transparency and established new sustainability goals. PCC/SMG’s partnership also has improved the guest experience while lowering customer costs. Recognizing the value of this collaborative relationship, earlier this year the Center approved a five-year extension of its facility management contract with SMG through 2023.

“The operational changes put in place by SMG over the past five years, combined with the cooperative partnership between the Center’s management and labor, have been very well-received by meeting planners and the larger meetings industry,” says John McNichol, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. “We are consistently competing for and winning new business, but what is most impressive is the number of customers who are re-booking the facility following their successful events.”

“Hospitality and tourism is one of Philadelphia’s largest and fastest growing employment sectors with over 74,300 hospitality-related jobs in Philadelphia County alone,” says Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is responsible for long-lead sales and marketing of the convention center. “With a progressive Customer Satisfaction Agreement in place, it keeps our destination competitive and will most certainly lead to business that will sustain hospitality workers far into the future.”

The Pennsylvania Convention Center is located in Center City Philadelphia at the heart of the city’s many cultural offerings and world-class dining and entertainment scene. Managed by SMG, the Center is the 14th-largest facility in the nation and features the largest exhibit space and ballroom in the Northeastern U.S. Each year, the center hosts more than 200 events that attract more than 1.2 million attendees, making it the largest driver of the region’s hospitality industry. For more info, visit www.paconvention.com.


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