CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago’s convention center cannot enforce several contentious labor reforms that have incited unions and been slammed by a federal judge, the 7th Circuit ruled, fast-tracking an appeal as the dispute drives away new business.
McCormick Place, boasting 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, implemented reforms designed to keep convention costs competitive with other national venues.
The reforms included shrinking the size of labor crews, restricting overtime and double-time provisions, and expanding exhibitors’ freedom to set up their own booths. Five trade shows recommitted their conventions to McCormick Place immediately after the reforms were announced.
In March, however, U.S. Judge Ronald Guzman ruled that the plan impermissibly infringed on employees’ collective bargaining rights. He also declined to stay his judgment while McCormick Place appealed.
The 7th Circuit also declined to stay the order, but granted an expedited appeal.
McCormick Place officials posted the following statement on their website following the ruling: “With today’s ruling on denying the motion, we are compelled to seek whatever it takes to save Chicago’s convention and trade show business. We wish to express the importance of the city’s convention industry as an economic engine that cannot be overstated. The 66,000 jobs we support and the $8 billion in Illinois spending are far too important to let other, more competitive destinations capture our business. Our customers have expressed their needs, we responded with a viable solution to provide a level playing field to help retain our competitiveness. With the support of the entire political leadership of our City and State, we will continue to advocate for our customers and work toward a long-term solution that will ensure the vitality of Chicago’s convention industry.”
Another adverse ruling could spell disaster for the convention center, which is currently courting the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 convention. The event drew 58,000 registrants last year and has threatened to move elsewhere because of labor issues and a potential conflict with the NATO/G8 summit.