* The Teamsters and the Carpenters unions both said from the beginning that their case against the McCormick Place reform law was a slam dunk winner. Round One proved them right…
Efforts by Illinois to preserve McCormick Place’s position as one of the country’s premier trade show venues were upended Thursday when a federal judge ruled that the state overstepped its bounds by revising work rules for unionized tradespeople on the show floor.
The ruling threw out passages of the law enacted last year that allow exhibitors to do more of their own booth setup and limit labor overtime and crew sizes.
The decision, which appeared to stun state political leaders, is a clear setback for efforts by Chicago and the state to remake the image of the convention center as a less expensive and more accommodating facility for trade shows and conventions. The city was taking a beating as high-profile trade shows left or threatened to leave for lower-cost cities such as Orlando and Las Vegas.
Now a major component of the changes that already were proving popular with show organizers and exhibitors has been tossed aside.
Guzman told the Legislature “it had no business trying to interfere with collective bargaining,” said Marvin Gittler, an attorney representing Local 727 of the Teamsters. Gittler said the city-state agency that runs McCormick Place, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, used the General Assembly to enforce concessions it could not get in bargaining.
Guzman held that the National Labor Relations Act pre-empts the Legislature from dictating terms for unions working at McCormick Place. His ruling let stand other aspects of the reform involving the authority, commonly called McPier because it oversees McCormick Place and Navy Pier. […]
The judge attacked the legislative rationale about cost control. “Despite its breadth, it’s not clear that [the reform bill] advances the state’s goal of reducing exhibitors’ costs,” he wrote.
Guzman noted that exhibitors, companies that rent space at a show to tout their wares or services, don’t pay for union work directly but are billed for it by show contractors. Without intruding on labor relations, the General Assembly could have limited contractor markups on labor or regulated the profit McPier gets from facility rentals and parking, the judge said.
* McPier’s full response…
All of us at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) are greatly disturbed at today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court overturning the labor reforms enacted by the General Assembly last May. As all observers of the convention and trade show business are aware, the implementation of those reforms has, virtually overnight, transformed McCormick Place from a great convention and trade show facility that was rapidly losing its customer base into an industry power house.
Not only were our existing customers convinced to keep their events in Chicago but new shows have been rapidly signing up, and these reforms have had a strong positive impact on the economy of Chicago during these difficult economic times.
We believe the ruling is faulty in several ways and are very hopeful that it will be overturned on appeal. On Monday, we ask the District Court to stay execution of the order pending appeal to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. We are confident that we have ample grounds to support that request.
The ruling does not affect other aspects of the reform legislation. These include the Trusteeship, the power of the Interim Board to put in place a private firm to manage McCormick Place and MPEA’s ability to enter into a lease with Navy Pier, Inc., the recently formed not-for-profit corporation governed by a Board of civic minded Chicagoans.