Union Agreement Aims to Bring More Conventions to Chicago

As part of an ongoing effort to bring more conventions and trade shows to the Windy City, two competing unions that work at Chicago's McCormick Place and Navy Pier have reached an agreement that will reduce labor costs for show organizers, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced yesterday.

Reached by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 134, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Local 2 — members of which are known as "stagehands" — the agreement makes it possible for IATSE members, whose hourly rates typically are lower than electricians', to install, operate and remove audio/visual, sound and lighting equipment in areas used for presentations and performances. IBEW members, meanwhile, will continue to complete all work in exhibit booths and other areas.

"This is exactly the sort of common sense, practical labor agreement that we are seeking throughout the city," said Mayor Emanuel. "This agreement will create jobs and make Chicago more competitive for trade shows; it will help union employees get work and will increase the number of trade shows and conventions we attract. This is a win-win for everyone involved and I commend the unions, as well as the leadership of McCormick Place and Navy Pier, for working with me to get this done."

Added Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who helped broker the deal along with Emanuel, "Today's agreement is another important step towards making McCormick Place the nation's premier convention venue. More conventions means more business and more jobs for Illinois."

According to those involved with it, the voluntary IBEW-IATSE agreement aligns McCormick Place and Navy Pier with other convention facilities and makes Chicago a more competitive meeting destination by allowing show organizers to use a wider group of contractors, the result of which is reduced costs for them and increased work opportunities for union workers.

"Today's announcement further solidifies McCormick Place's competitive standing in the industry and goes a long way to strengthen Chicago's ability to attract corporate and association business," said Jim Reilly, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), which owns McCormick Place and Navy Pier. "Listening to our customers' needs was the catalyst for the labor changes unveiled today. We are very grateful to Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and our labor partners — IBEW and IATSE — who came together with us to put these changes into effect for our customers."