Emanuel: Union deal will boost convention business

June 19, 2012 4:26:20 PM PDT
A new labor deal may boost convention business in Chicago. Two unions have reached an agreement on what jobs their members can perform at McCormick Place and Navy Pier. It's expected to help cut costs for trade shows.

The electrical workers union has agreed not to enforce its contracted right to install lighting and sound systems on McCormick Place stages. The union recognizes the convention center is losing trade shows because some exhibitors would rather use union stagehands for the work.

"No longer will anyone be able to say that labor kept business from coming to the city of Chicago," said Terry Allen, IBEW #134.

The electricians reason that more shows booking McCormick Place will mean more work for them away from the stages in the exhibit booths and elsewhere in the convention center.

"It's about expanding the pie. And your slice therefore becomes bigger," said Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor.

"This agreement was not required by the legislation. This was voluntary," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel says the inter-union deal, on the heels of other labor concessions last fall, has ignited Chicago's convention business.

"More hotels are under construction, our restaurant business is up, our overall occupancy of our hotels are up and people have the confidence to come to the city of Chicago," said Emanuel.

On another tourism-related topic, with Gov. Pat Quinn looking over his left shoulder, the mayor was asked about Quinn's threatened veto of a gaming expansion bill that would license the casino the mayor wants for Chicago.

"Look, the governor and I have a lot to work through," he said. "He agrees with me about the essential for Chicago to have a casino. And it's important for the job creation and the ability to do school modernization with the revenue."

The governor opposes the latest casino bill, saying it has too many loopholes in it that could make organized crime infiltration a possibility. The gaming bill passed by the General Assembly in May still has not arrived on the governor's desk.

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