For years, the two have gone hand-in-hand: McCormick Place and union problems. But the horror stories could end, thanks to a new labor agreement at the Chicago trade show center.
The city and its McCormick Place unions made the changes this fall, after the International Housewares Show threatened to leave for Orlando, Fla. Two other shows also planned to leave. The Housewares Show has decided to remain at McCormick, where it will run Jan. 10-13.
Plastics industry exhibitors should like the changes, according to the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. SPI said the new union rules should make exhibiting at the next NPE show, in 2000, more affordable and efficient.
Jordan Morgenstern, SPI's vice president of trade shows, called the changes ``a major step forward in making NPE even more `exhibitor-friendly.'''
Morgenstern said small booths — which account for 45 percent of all NPE displays — will see savings in set-up time and costs.
``Companies with booths of 300 square feet or less now have the option of assembling and decorating their booths themselves, rather than using union workers,'' he said.
Executives at several equipment exhibitors praised the changes, which SPI announced Dec. 16. Some of the changes were phased in partially during Plastics USA in October.
``Labor's always been kind of a problem at every show. It's always been a pain,'' said Hunter R. Kissam Jr., director of sales and marketing at Methods Plastics Machinery of Sudbury, Mass., which sells Shinwa Seiki injection molding machines from Japan.
``It sounds great. It's long overdue,'' said Dean Ward, vice president of blown film equipment maker Brampton Engineering Inc. in Brampton, Ontario. ``Whether that will be adequate remains to be seen. Certainly the burden imposed by the previous rules was extremely difficult to live by.''
The new agreement includes:
Liberalized work rules that permit small-booth exhibitors to do their own assembly work. Exhibitors' full-time employees no longer must use a union electrician to connect computer monitors, keyboards, speakers and other peripherals, or plug in equipment or set up and operate a single video camera or videocassette recorder. However, work requiring power tools or ladders still requires union labor, Morgenstern noted.
Reduced overtime pay for evening and Saturday work by decorators, riggers and carpenters. On a weekday, union members who work more than eight hours now will get paid time-and-a-half, instead of double time, for work between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Also, if a show begins the move-out process during the week, workers get time-and-a-half, instead of double time, for the first four hours of the dismantling period. (NPE 2000 will close on a Friday.)
A unified labor pool that enables carpenters and decorators to do the same work. ``In the past,'' Morgenstern said, ``it was required that two different unions, the decorators and the carpenters, work separately on different aspects of booth construction.'' That caused delays because the two unions did not coordinate their work, resulting in long waits before the other union arrived on the job, he said.
That last change is especially pertinent to William Roebuck, vice president of marketing at JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. of Anaheim, Calif.
``You'd have to fill out a form and wait for a guy to come. Sometimes it would take a few hours to do 20 minutes' work,'' he said.
Ward has heard the stories: from exhibitors' own crews temporarily joining the union to get work done, to outright bribery.
``In order to get a trade to come to your booth, you would have to hand a guy a hundred dollars,'' he said.