Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Cracks develop as top Chicago union leader testifies about convention industry: “We can’t exist” with the governor’s “Phase 4 limbo”
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Cracks develop as top Chicago union leader testifies about convention industry: “We can’t exist” with the governor’s “Phase 4 limbo”

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association live-tweeted testimony today by Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter to the Senate Tourism and Hospitality Committee about the city’s convention business

@BobReiterJr from @chicagolabor during IL Senate Tourism Cmte. hearing: Decisions made now will impact the #travel industry for this summer and beyond. Without a roadmap, current regulations are causing events to be canceled as far out as 2022.

@BobReiterJr: Other states like Nevada & New York are moving ahead w/ changes to allow for events to reopen. We have been working w/ health experts on protocols and believe events should resume w/ 50% occupancy cap and no maximum as long as precautions are implemented.

A balancing act needs to be had that protects people’s health but also need to look at what needs to be done to get people back to work. 25-30,000 union hospitality & convention workers are out of work & are making the decisions b/w paying for healthcare, mortgage or buying food

@BobReiterJr: We can’t exist in @GovPritzker’s phase 4 limbo & just hope that regulations are going to change. We need a ramp. How do we make incremental progress as pandemic winds to a close. Help us plan a path forward that protects workers but allows them to get back to work

@BobReiterJr: @McCormick_Place is the largest convention center in the United States. The convention industry was born in Chicago. Tourism is going to come back as the cabin fever wears off.

@BobReiterJr: The conversation (on reopening the convention industry) with @GovPritzker’s office needs to be had right now.

@SenatorSara6: Since our last hearing, 2 weeks ago, Chicago has lost three giant conventions - all cancelled. Growing concern for the potential revenue loss for the state. The Colorado dial telegraphs to those convention planners that we’re on the move, getting ready.

@BobReiterJr: We need to look towards the future. Can’t focus on previous benchmarks as vaccines increase. We don’t need capacity limits. We need a percentage based occupancy cap based on the size of the space where the event is.

@SenatorSuzy: Right now, with @GovPritzker’s Restore Illinois phase 4 and 5, it’s “all or small.” We need a gradual ramp up to larger events and gatherings.

Video is here.

Also, don’t nitpick typos. Live-tweeting ain’t easy. Stick to the topic at hand.

* I asked the governor’s office for a response. Here’s Jordan Abudayyeh…

The Governor has always said as the science evolves the response to this pandemic will follow what medical experts deem appropriate. The Governor shares the eagerness to resume normal life and as vaccine becomes more readily available looks forward to the next phases of this response.

* Related…

* National Restaurant Association Show, Inspired Home Show cancel McCormick Place events


  1. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:13 am:

    Sounds like a lot of happy talk from the CFL. Cuomo and casinos are not who you want to follow in a pandemic.

  2. - Nick - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:14 am:

    Probably the only thing the Governors office could say.

  3. - NotRich - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:18 am:

    the Gov’s office is hiding behind the “science” statement.. they are refusing to meet with the convention people to even start the discussions.. I guess they were too busy losing the DPI fight to be engaged

  4. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:23 am:

    you could say the same thing about Lightfoot. and not just the convention industry. what about live events? come up with something in advance of everyone getting the vaccine. Biden says by the end of May. get a plan in place. tic toc.

  5. - OneMan - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:24 am:

    If Texas and Mississippi do not turn out to be huge mistakes in a month there is going to be a ton of ‘open up’ pressure.

    If you are one of the most restrictive in 3 months and things have not gotten worse in other places that are ‘looser’, that is going to become a tougher and tougher sell.

  6. - SWIL_Voter - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    It has bugged me all along that this conversation is always framed as being a battle between industry/jobs and government regulation, and not one between people and a virus. Yea, we all want to get back to normal, but we also want our friends and relatives to survive. And we never seem able to be explicit about the costs of opening too early even though we’re plenty explicit about the costs of not opening. If we don’t open, x number of jobs are lost, but if we open too early, y number of lives are lost. Is it worth it?

  7. - ddp76 - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:26 am:

    There has to be a plan to open everything at some point. Have a plan even if it later gets altered. I’m going to White Sox baseball and Bears football games this year. Either here, or in another state.

  8. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:33 am:

    ===Sounds like a lot of happy talk from the CFL===

    They have, IIRC, 20K+ unemployed members in that industry.

  9. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:43 am:

    =The immune systems of more than 95% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had durable memories of the virus up to eight months after infection.=,lasting%20immune%20memories%20after%20vaccination.

    =1 in 4.6 (95% UI* 4.0 – 5.4) total COVID–19 infections were reported=

    Illinois has 1.19 million confirmed cases. But that number, according to the CDC is closer to 5 million.

    The IDPH says 906,000 people fully vaccinated. That number is going to rise quickly with the J&J jab coming on line.

    So roughly 5 million with some level immunity from illness. 1 million more in a day or two with some level of immunity from vaccination.

    That’s 6 million people out of 12.7 million. And not all those 12.7 million can take a shot because of age.

    I don’t want to be Texas or South Dakota. But the numbers, the expected science and trends need to be acknowledged. The time is soon to announce Phase 5 and Illinois needs to give some certainty to the convention and event industry.

    I’m still not sure many people actually flock back to these conventions - but if they are going to be held they need to have the option of coming to Illinois.

    Pick a date - April 1st, April 15th, set a few mitigations and start the reopening process.

    I’ve supported most of what JB has done over the past year - but I do think his privilege keeps him to error on the side of extreme caution. He doesn’t know what a day to day struggle is to be a working class family. It’s time to be a little bolder in reopening the state and pushing forward to get people back to work.

  10. - phocion - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    Ptizker only listens to one type of “science,” and they’re not even consistent or wholly accurate. Heavy lockdown states like California and NY have had terrible rates of death and serious illnesses. Other experts should be heard - economists, psychologists, pediatricians. Pritzker lost two massive trade shows by following a failed script for far too long. He will be held accountable in 2022 for his massive mistakes.

  11. - levivotedforjudy - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    If the conventions were moving to another venue is one thing. These events are cancelled. Every large meeting, confab, conference on my docket is still virtual. Definitely develop a re-opening strategy, but you need physical events to happen first. I think even when it is safe to resume normal activities, it will take some/maybe a lot, of people time to dip their toes back into going to large events.

  12. - NotRich - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:56 am:

    “cool papa bell” great post

  13. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:04 pm:

    - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 11:33 am:

    One of the earliest outbreaks in the United States was a convention in Massachusetts that led to a minimum of tens of thousands of infections. If trade groups don’t believe it is safe or don’t have the money to book, you don’t employ anyone anyway. And we’ve already seen what the opening too soon wrought on bars and restaurants.

    But let’s go a step further. Reiter directly cites Nevada as a model but then goes against Nevada’s own model. Reiter is demanding 50% full and no cap on capacity. LVCVA states the following:

    “Public gatherings and venues that host events such as live entertainment or group meetings are limited to 100 people or to 35 percent of capacity, whichever number is lower. If COVID-19 trends continue to decline, beginning March 15, the numbers will increase to 250 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever number is lower.”

  14. - Joe Schmoe - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:07 pm:

    Things look different to a guy who’s never missed a meal or collected a W-2 in his entire life….

  15. - SWIL_Voter - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:08 pm:

    == Heavy lockdown states like California and NY have had terrible rates of death ==

    California’s death rate is better than 29 states, including our own. New York’s is bad, but they were also hit very bad early on. Not sure what their rate is compared to other states since, say, last summer. But it should be clear by now the restrictions work

  16. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:12 pm:

    I heard that a 4A, 4B, 4C phased reopening would be announced soon. Something more nuanced that where we are today and fully reopened in Phase 5.

  17. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:13 pm:

    === but they were also hit very bad early on===

    Glad you didn’t take the bait from the fun with numbers propagandist. The numbers to pay attention to are AFTER we learned more about the virus. And those numbers ain’t good for the early smug states.

  18. - 1st Ward - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:13 pm:

    How do you re-open conventions at 25% or 50% capacity at McCormick Place before high schoolers are back in school in the same city? Trump is not in office anymore and Dems like JB need to start governing on these issues as the politics have changed. Repeating “safety” and “science” isn’t going to work much longer. See Gavin Newsom and now Cuomo.

  19. - More than just death to worry about - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:13 pm:

    Peer reviewed science has shown.
    Folks that have even mild to moderate symptoms show damage to lungs and organs equal to 10 years of aging or worse.
    Death is not only issue at hand, shortening of one’s life by a considerable amount will lead to parents dying way too early in their young children’s life and many kids only have 1 parent.
    If everyone has the mind set that the only thing that is to matter is not dying now. Then in a few years alot will die way too early in the near future.
    This is not a “death or nothing” consequence virus.

  20. - Roman - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:22 pm:

    I generally give JB high marks for his Covid efforts. But I think he needs to come up with some sort of a high-profile small business recovery plan that targets the hospitality industry. Tax breaks? Capital investments? Less regulations?

    They’ve been pummeled beyond all recognition and the industry is populated with Democratic-leaning voters. He can’t afford to lose them.

  21. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:46 pm:

    Joe schmoe with the low blow.

    JB should keep listening to the scientists who have gotten us this far. But he should also at least start the conversation.

  22. - 4 percent - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:53 pm:

    A couple of things:

    1. Pritzker claims to follow the “science” but has moved the goalposts several times without science.

    2. Biden has announced that there will be 300 million vaccines available by the end of May. Pritzker’s plan moves IL to Phase 5 when vaccines are “readily available” which is very close. He could set a time frame based on Biden.

  23. - sulla - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:58 pm:

    Phase 4: 50 persons or 50% of occupancy, whichever is less.
    Phase 5: fully-open, post-pandemic.

    Surely there is some room to step up in between those two phases. Particularly as case-positive rates continue to plummet into the low single digits.

  24. - ChicagoBars - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 12:58 pm:

    The Governor’s team rolled out detailed and robust plans for reopening in May and June. All credit to them for that.

    But that was 9 months ago and 3 FDA vaccine approvals ago. It is definitely time for an update to that plan, and give the vaccine or case/testing benchmarks to allow socially distanced and masked larger events beyond what’s out there now.

    I wouldn’t think this is a huge ask. Or shouldn’t be.

    Also anyone quoting Vegas convention authority protocols - google World of Concrete Vegas 2021, the trade show industry out there is waiting out there on the Governor to bless or reject that show in next few days to formally restart that activity.

  25. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 1:07 pm:

    To a possible Phase 5 declaration - I can’t see how IL will use percentages of the population that has been vaccinated to reopen. (not saying they are either)

    But you can’t do it because a good portion of the population isn’t going to take the jab anytime soon. You can’t convince them, so you can’t keep the state on a slowdown until they come around.

    They might never come around.

    As noted above - Phase 5 - vaccine is “readily available”, not that it has been “readily taken” by the state’s citizens.

  26. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 1:15 pm:

    I think a lot of folks go to conventions because said travel is paid by their company. But companies have seen that zoom/teams work well enough and that a no travel policy actually does save money. I am wondering how soon the demand side of trade shows and conventions picks up.

  27. - ChicagoBars - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 1:27 pm:

    “I think a lot of folks go to conventions because said travel is paid by their company.”

    And unless you’ve invited to different Zoom calls than I am, that convention travel is a whole lot more fun than Zoom calls too.

    Every trade show plays up their ability to capture sales leads to exhibitors as well, that’s much harder to do as well online. At least without spending a lot more money. Cheers.

  28. - Frank talks - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 1:31 pm:

    Losing has consequences. JB taking losses gives others opportunities and reason to push back. Labor has been a staunch ally and followed the lead this is a break from that lead.

  29. - RNUG - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 2:24 pm:

    I’ve been trying to book a car club convention here in Springfield in the late July to late August (or even September if I have to go that late). Likely between 50 and 100 people, a fair amount of outdoor events. Not getting it done at the moment.

    But JB says we can have a State Fair in August. And we will have enough vaccine to cover everyone by May.

    So which is it? Everyone who wants to should be protected by June, but we’re going to stay closed up?

    Isn’t making sense.

  30. - Blue Dog - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 2:43 pm:

    Folks let’s think about this for a minute. We have a $1.9 trillion stimulus package waiting to be passed and about $8 billion for Illinois alone. Best not declare the state of emergency over to soon.

  31. - striketoo - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 2:49 pm:

    By summer everyone who wants a vaccination will have one. They will be able to open with no restrictions. Plan for it.

  32. - Simple Simon - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 2:51 pm:

    Given the unknowns regarding how many people actually get vaccinated, how many have immunity from getting the virus, and how much of the population needs one or the other prior to achieving some type of herd immunity, I think I understand why no one wants to put numbers on paper right now. Those things will be more clear in the next couple of months as case numbers decline. Listing hard numbers and targets are a fool’s game for now, and the fools want JB to play.

  33. - sulla - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 2:59 pm:

    “Folks let’s think about this for a minute. We have a $1.9 trillion stimulus package waiting to be passed and about $8 billion for Illinois alone. Best not declare the state of emergency over to soon.”

    Good point. I didn’t think about it from that angle.

  34. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 3:02 pm:

    @RUNG - That’s the point for me. And really if you wait until the perfect time to open, you have missed the best time to open.

  35. - Responsa - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 3:30 pm:

    Conventions aren’t thrown together at the last minute. The conventions also need assurance of the city’s restaurants, theaters, jazz clubs, gambling and concert venues open as draw and entertainment for out of towners. Getting conventions scheduled entails much much more than opening up a large bland space where people sit through boring meetings or wander the acres of aisles shopping new product.

  36. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 3:35 pm:

    Require all attendees and all staff to have proof of vaccination.

    Daily temp checks for 50 percent capacity, masks and social distancing required indoors.

    Is Reiter so eager to re-open that he will agree to requiring vaccination?

  37. - Juvenal - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 3:45 pm:

    @Joe Schmoe-

    Thanks for the fat joke, buddy.

    It’s nice to be reminded that just because Trump lost, not all of the half-toothed humor has been drained from our political discourse.

    Fat jokes have been the last acceptable form of bigotry, even though polls show a growing number of Americans find them offensive.

  38. - jpf - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 4:10 pm:

    Illinois unemployment rate 8%
    Indiana unemployment 4.6% and Wisconsin unemployment rate 4.0%. Both states are much more open than Illinois. The purpose of the restrictions were to keep hospitals from being overloaded. Hospitals are not overloaded in Illinois. 731 covid patients in bed when Illinois has a bed capacity of 18,156. From Beckers:

  39. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 4:10 pm:

    @TP - Going on a year of seeing people having temps taken to get into buildings, events, schools and such… I have never come across a person turned away because of a high fever or even seen a point and shoot thermometer even register a number close to my actual temp.

    Taking of temps will have to go down as the single biggest waste of time and effort over the pandemic.

  40. - Squints - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 4:28 pm:

    Just what we need, reopening advice from a union bozo. Maybe have a doctor or someone, you know, in medicine should make these statements on behalf of union workers?

  41. - former southerner - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 5:02 pm:

    @CPB, I agree about the temperature checks. I photographed a couple of high school sports events in the past week and at the first event I didn’t even trigger a reading on the thermometer and on the second one I measured a balmy 86 degrees indicating I was closer to actually being a living mammal.

  42. - Chicago 20 - Thursday, Mar 4, 21 @ 8:47 pm:

    Biden says we will have enough vaccines by May for everyone in the US.
    Schedule McCormick Place for reopening July 1st requiring vaccinated workers and attendees with on-site screening and sanitation stations.

  43. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Mar 5, 21 @ 9:13 am:

    @ Chicago - If we will have enough for everyone by May then the place should be open in mid to late May.
    Your still not going to get everyone to take a shot by May, you don’t need the “herd” at 100 percent anyway. So you shouldn’t wait for two months after everyone can get a vaccine to open this place back up.

  44. - Essential State Employee - Friday, Mar 5, 21 @ 9:25 am:

    Now Comptroller Mendoza is weighing in and expressing optimism on the return of outdoor events (such as the State Fair) this summer. Followed by conventions and trade shows in the fall.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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