Among the modifications to union labor rules at Chicago's McCormick Place and Navy Pier, exhibitors can do more booth work on their own, including hanging signs, blowing up balloons, handing out fliers, and hooking up electrical connections, without the assistance of unions. Also, crew sizes will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to having a set number of workers assigned beforehand for a specific task. For example, previously, three riggers would have been assigned to install one small refrigerator in a booth. Now the exhibitor has the opportunity to meet with the union for tasks like this to determine if the job requires one, two, or three riggers — or no assistance at all.

Another change: an expansion of hours when customers pay straight-time wages. Shows now have the option of having work performed at straight-time rates starting at either 6, 7, or 8 a.m., as opposed to starting only at 8 a.m. “That's a far cry from what everybody was hoping for,” says Steve Drew, assistant executive director, Radiological Society of North America, Oak Brook, Ill. Ideally, he would like to see straight time wages apply to the first eight hours a laborer works in a day, regardless of start time.

A new position has been created — Audio Visual Delivery Technician — to handle exhibitors' high-tech needs. This position will be paid at a rate equal to 60 percent of a journeyman's wage. (Pam Magnani, vice president of meetings and education, the American Gastroenterological Association, Bethesda, Md., found this service to be most fruitful during her recent show at McCormick, as it saved exhibitors some 40 percent in labor costs, she says.)

MPEA also established a Labor Management Council, made up of MPEA officials, union representatives, contractors, and customers, to serve as a permanent forum to review cost, efficiency, and overall show experience. The council has the authority to implement further improvements at the facility as necessary.

The rules create a formalized auditing process to review bills submitted by contractors to show organizers. Auditors will review invoices at the end of the show and share the findings with the newly established council. The process gives exhibitors a forum to file complaints, and if it is determined that a contractor failed to pass on savings to the exhibitors, a penalty is assessed and the amount of money in question will be refunded to the exhibitor or show organizer.