Surviving Strikes

Planners need not look too far these days to hear news about labor strikes affecting the meetings, travel, and hospitality industry. From work stoppages, to picketing, to work slowdowns, planners across the United States have faced many challenging situations in connection with their organizations' meetings and events. So what's a planner to do? In this unpredictable climate, planners must address strikes and labor disputes before, during, and after their meetings. Here are to-do lists for each phase of your event that will minimize the impact of labor disputes.

BEFOREAsk your supplier partners. When considering a meeting site, ask your contacts whether their employees are unionized and, if so, when the union contract is set to expire with the meeting site.

Investigate the climate. Talk to other planners, your CVB contacts, and to representatives of industry organizations regarding the proposed meeting site. Your goal is to find out if other planners have had challenges working with the meeting site's labor unions.

Get it in writing. Planners should include a provision in their hotel and other facility agreements which states that if the meeting site's employees are on strike (actual or threatened) or if there are any labor disputes involving the meeting site's employees, the group may cancel the agreement without liability. The group can further specify that the hotel would be responsible for reimbursing the group for its out-of-pocket costs incurred to relocate the meeting.

DURINGStay informed. Periodically check with your contacts at the meeting site and with the convention & visitors bureau to see whether there is any potential of a labor dispute. If there is, ask your contacts to provide you with as much information as possible regarding the scope and nature of the dispute.

Decide quickly. Often, labor issues arise shortly before or during a meeting so planners must be able to address issues quickly. The organization must conduct an overall assessment to determine potential impact. For example, if there is a labor union strike at the hotel, will attendees cross the picket lines to attend the meeting? What about speakers? If the impact is significant, your organization may need to cancel the contract without liability as discussed above. If you decide to move forward with the meeting, you may need to put additional precautions in place such as additional security.

Inform attendees. Planners should remember that attendees are likely to hear or read news reports concerning the strike or labor dispute. Organizations should maintain regular communication with their attendees regarding the situation and the organization's response.

AFTERPlay cleanup. If your organization decided to have its meeting despite a labor dispute, it is likely that you incurred additional costs for security, additional staffing, signage, and other items. Itemize these costs and send a summary to the meeting site when making a claim for reimbursement.

Address your concerns. Following any meeting, facilities and bureaus want to hear from planners. They want to know "the good, the bad, and the ugly," so planners should be prepared to address their concerns in writing.

Barbara F. Dunn, Esq. is an attorney and partner with Howe & Hutton in the firm's St. Louis, MO, office. She can be contacted at (636) 256-3351 or [email protected]