Greg Hinz, a columnist for Crain's Chicago Business, posted a blog item today on a proposal by several unions to make a McCormick Place more competitive with other trade show venues. The unions called for audits of trade-show operators and McCormick Place contractors to make sure they are passing on labor-cost savings to their customers, and drafting a customer bill of rights. "Unions at McCormick Place have worked with management time and again to lower their costs and make work rules more customer-friendly," said Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. "But the whole business model must change, not just labor contracts." The unions say labor rates in Chicago are already competitive -- they pointed to data from Tradeshow Week that said the labor rate for a carpenter at a show in Chicago is $96.68 an hour, compared to $148.89 in New York and $99.96 in Los Angeles. The unions say high drayage fees are a big problem at McCormick Place, even compared to nearby Rosemont, Ill. According to their news release:
The hourly rate charged to an exhibitor for a carpenter in Rosemont is $85, where the workers are represented by the same unions as McCormick Place. But the price charged to the exhibitor is almost $11 cheaper. Rosemont exhibitors pay $55 per hour for drayage, but more than $80 in Chicago. Drayage can account for close to 50 percent of an exhibitor's show services bill, according to Michael Hughes, vice president of research and consulting for Tradeshow Weekly.The unions are trying to help bring down costs at McCormick, which has to be good news in a city still reeling from the loss of the 2012 and 2015 NPE trade shows shows to Orlando, Fla. Still, Chicago convention officials know that they're not being measured against New York and Los Angeles. Those aren't the cities that are taking business from McCormick. The key to Chicago's convention future is to become more competitive with Orlando and Las Vegas.