Convention Tension

McCormick Place

Chicago's McCormick Place

by John Folks

When it comes to conventions, Chicago has always been “My Kinda Town.”  Just look at the numbers… the convention industry generates $8 billion in annual spending and supports 66,000 jobs in Chicago. It’s big business and McCormick Place is the primary driver.  But in recent years, there have been more and more complaints about the high costs of hosting trade shows at McCormick Place, due in large part to complex, restrictive union work rules. Last year in the wake of a trade-show exodus, the Legislature and the Governor intervened and adopted reforms.

These reforms expanded exhibitors’ rights to put up their own booths; reduced labor crew size requirements, redefined the rules of “straight” time, overtime and double-time, and changed in-house electrical contractor operations. The labor changes prompted five annual trade shows to recommit and several others to choose Chicago. It repositioned the city as more competitive with other convention destinations and a lot easier to do business with.

But a couple of weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that labor reforms enacted at Chicago’s McCormick Place cannot continue.

Without these reforms, Chicago cannot be competitive, and the city will no longer be an attractive destination for these large events. This not only hurts the convention center and hotels, but the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the retail stores, as well as you and me – because the tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues generated through these conventions support city services and infrastructure.

Let your Congressman know that this is important to you and your livelihood – be heard and get their support.  To make it easy, here are two links – the first for Senators, and the second for Representatives:

It will only take 5 minutes to make a call, and our city and industry will be better for it.


2 responses

  1. John – What is your opinion on the Chicago politcicals pushing the annual NRA tradeshow (with a $100 MM+ economic impact to Chicgao to Vegas) out of Chicago to accommodate the G8 & NATO (with a significantant smaller impact for a ONE YEAR proposition)?

    N A has been a dedicated partner of Chicago, working with the city and the unions to hold hands and sing kumbaby over the union reorganization. And now we want them to “go away” to accommodate a high-profilem non-revenue producing event.

    • Thanks for your reply Carolyn – A source at the CCTB shared that our new Mayor agreed to host the G8 not understanding the city’s capacity to host it over NRA, or the economic impact losing a large convention would have. This could have been an expensive lesson, but it sounds like NRA may be agreeable to shifting their dates to early May to accommodate the G8. Let’s hope Rahmbo now understands a bit more about the complexities of meetings & conventions.

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