St. Louis' Convention Bureau Reaches Deal With Union Workers At America's Center

The St. Louis Convention &Visitors Commission announced on April 11 an agreement with union workers at America's Center regarding labor issues that have hovered since last fall. In the fall, the CVC made it clear to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local One, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 6, and the IATSE Local 143 (known as Projectionists) that it wanted to eliminate the practice whereby labor brokers, required to be hired by conventions, arrange for union workers to install wiring, build stages, and run AV projectors. The bureau wanted to employ such workers directly, saying such an arrangement would cut costs, improve services, and get more business for the center. When talks broke down in March, the three unions were ousted, and the CVC implement new rules unilaterally.

Kitty Ratcliffe, CVC president, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at that time: "We preferred not get to this point. But we had no choice."

Before talks resumed, questions remained whether other unions would strike in sympathy. The new agreement averts that scenario and establishes more options for convention clients considering the America's Center. CVC clients and their AV contractors may now bring their own people to the center to perform certain AV functions. Simple stage set-ups no longer require union workers. The customer will have discretionary hiring power regarding the number of AV technicians needed.

For the unions, the CVC will refer AV contractors to organized groups. Stagehands will continue their current service contracts and will set up all staging taller than 48-inches high. The CVC will also provide space and equipment to cross-train projectionists and electricians so they can share AV workload.

"Both parties are pleased to have reached an understanding that meets the changing needs of customers," said Ratcliffe in a press statement.

Speaking for the unions, Robert A. Soutier, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO, seconded Ratcliffe's remark: "The CVC and unions have united to advance the momentum of convention bookings, which both have worked hard to achieve."

Union workers returned to America's Center on April 11.

Originally published April 21, 2008