CFL News
October 31, 2011

McCormick Place union deal reap rewards: Trade show, hotel work

The recent labor deal reached between unions and McCormick Place officials has already led to new show business and $125 million investment in hotel renovations, bringing economic activity and jobs to Chicago

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Fran Spielman

Newly-negotiated union concessions at McCormick Place paid quick dividends on Friday when a major trade show locked in for 2013 and 2015, and a major hotel chain authorized $125 million in renovations.

Solar Power International had initially agreed to bring its 27,000 attendees and $80 million in “economic activity” to Chicago for the first time in 2013 after the Legislature dictated cost-saving work-rule changes last year.

When two unions challenged that mandate and a federal judge agreed, Solar Power International put its plans on hold while McCormick Place officials sought those same changes at the bargaining table.

Last week, the Teamsters and Carpenters Unions signed on the dotted line.

With that guarantee, Solar Power International has not only reaffirmed its 2013 commitment, but it also “doubled-down” on Chicago, by agreeing to return in 2015.

That was not the only immediate off-shoot of the union concessions.

John Wells, general manager of Hilton Chicago, said the hotel and others owned by the Blackstone Group are forging ahead with a $125 million renovation that will create up to 300 construction jobs.

Conventions and group business account for over 70 percent of Hilton Chicago revenues.

At a McCormick Place news conference Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted both developments as proof that the Teamsters and Carpenters made the “right choice for their members.”

“While you’re negotiating, you look at how you’re lowering costs [and] what they’re giving up,” Emanuel said.

“Today, we’re showing them what the opportunity is when you make those agreements — all the job growth, job creation and economic opportunity it creates for them, their families and the city of Chicago.”

The mayor added, “It shows that, if we all give a little, we all will win a lot. And the only people [who] won’t win today will be Las Vegas and Orlando. My thoughts and prayers are with them because I want Chicago to win and that’s what I care about.”

The union concessions agreed to last week will allow the McPier Authority to create an “exhibitors bill of rights” that lets show managers and exhibitors set up their own booths with simple tools.

Exhibitors also can drive and unload their own vehicles at McCormick Place, and union work can be done by two-person crews instead of the told three-person minimum.

John Coli, president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, has said his members “gave `til it hurt” after receiving a guarantee that “robust audits” will be conducted to verify that labor savings are passed on to exhibitors and not used to pad profits for show managers.

At least three other trade shows have also “re-committed” to Chicago since the union deal was announced: True Value (11,000 attendees in 2013); Globalshop (15,000 participants in 2013); and the Institute of Food Technologists (25,000 people in 2013 and 2015).

The concessions also salvaged the Housewares Show, the National Restaurant Association, the Surgeons and Fabtech, officials said.

Copyright © 2011 — Sun-Times Media, LLC