McCormick union deal could help keep conventions

October 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Ill. Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a deal with unions Friday.

The agreement marks the end of a long-fought battle to come up with new work rules at McCormick Place that will help reduce costs.

Emanuel and Quinn announced new labor agreements that they say will solidify Chicago's position as the most customer-friendly convention and trade show venue in the country.

"There were some that said never in a million years can you get an agreement doen here at this wonderful exhibition place. But we did it," Quinn said.

"I am very proud of this agreement because it lifts a cloud taht existed over McCormick Place," Emanuel said.

The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 727 agreed to end their federal lawsuits challenging some reform measures passed into law in 2010. All involved say it will result in reduced costs for exhibitors at McCormick Place and will keep lucrative conventions from leaving the city.

In recent years, cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando have managed to lure conventions away from Chicago, offering the same services for less money.

"This is the worst news for Orlando and Las Vegas. McCormick Place is open for business. That means we're gonna have jobs and economic growth," Emanuel said.

Quinn and Emanuel were among the first to take bows for helping settle the labor dispute at McCormick Place.

"Everybody gave a little, but everybody won a lot because people are going to go to work," Emanuel said.

But union leaders were the ones who made the agreement possible when they decided to drop their federal court lawsuit on which they won a favorable ruling last March.

Said John Coli of the Teamsters Union, "It's no small thing that the Teamsters here at McCormick Place gave. They gave a lot and they gave until it hurt."

Jason Carlson has spent 25 years as a carpenter, working jobs at McCormick Place. He's upset, saying his union kept members in the dark.

"I'm not happy at all. I think everybody here feels the same way," he said. "Everybody's waiting to see, how bad is it gonna be, really? Can we give up more and still make a living down here?"

In Friday's agreement, the state will help soon-to-be unemployed McCormick Place carpenters find work elsewhere.

Fewer Teamsters on the job will get less overtime.

"Going to make less money but the whole thing is I have got family to feed and I need my job," said Teamster Anthony Fagiano

Union carpenters worry. Many of them will not be needed under the new work rules.

"There's not one carpenter here right now who knows anything at all about what's about to happen," said Jason Carlson

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