Labor unions at McCormick Place have been getting a lot of the blame for the loss of the 2012 and 2015 NPE shows to Orlando, Fla. But are they really at fault? Jim Leahy, a third-generation member of the Riggers Local 136, responded to the charges in the Chicago Daily Observer today. He's got a lot to say that will interest NPE exhibitors. First, he points out that McCormick unions have already made sacrifices, "like giving up double time for time and a half, or the cut in crews from three to two in the case of Machinery Movers." Leahy goes on:
Here is something most people don't know. When the Plastics Show or any big machinery show leaves Chicago; the very workers who [Mayor Richard] Daley blames for the loss of the show, will be flown in by the show producer to work in the other venue. You might ask yourself, "If they bring labor from Chicago and have to provide them with room and board and mileage wouldn't that make it more expensive for labor in the new venue?" Yes it would. Then why is labor being blamed? First of all, it's easy. Everyone can tell you a horror story about having to pay multiple hundreds of dollars to pay an electrician to just plug in an electrical plug. Do you know why that is by the way? The Electricians at McCormick place work for McPier. That means they work for the city and state not for the show producers. In 1967 McCormick place burnt down. The official report put the blame on faulty wiring. It was found that most of the electrical wiring for the booths did not follow electrical safety standards. The report brought changes to the Chicago Municipal Code based on the lessons learned from the McCormick Place Fire. That's why only electricians are allowed to do the wiring at the hall and why it is the toughest standard to meet in the world. I wanted to give some background so people could see that the building trades in Chicago are not the reason the shows are leaving. As a matter of fact the labor here is the best at putting huge shows in faster and with less damage and injury than anywhere else in the world. That's why the Riggers and Carpenters and others will follow the show to the new venue.Leahy says trade shows aren't leaving Chicago because of the cost of labor. The real problem, he says, is the cost of doing business in Chicago: including expensive hotel rooms, food, taxies, parking, and most important, high taxes. "The taxes on the cost of the booth and services have raised the costs significantly. It is the Democrat way of governing; stick it to the people with the money!" he writes. "[Daley] has enclosed McCormick place and made it so it's almost impossible to leave. Your booth space is miles from parking or taxi drop off areas. Once inside it's like being at the airport, prices are through the roof, you have to buy everything inside where contracts are pay to play, everyone gets their cut. Everything is over priced and aimed at squeezing every dime out of exhibitors, attendees and now more and more the workers. The bigger McCormick Place gets the more control the city has over the costs and the more expensive it gets. So if we want to keep these shows here in Chicago Mr. Mayor CUT TAXES!" Chicago taxes have come up before in the NPE location debate. Remember "the Pepsi incident"? Of the $345.39 that an exhibitor at NPE2009 paid for four cases of Pepsi, government taxes totaled $38.06. At this point, it's clear that Mayor Daley and the McCormick unions feel that someone has been gouging exhibitors at trade shows like NPE. But who is really to blame?