Last week, the Illinois General Assembly overrode a veto by Governor Pat Quinn and passed a law designed to reduce labor costs and make Chicago more competitive as a convention destination.

On May 7, the IGA passed a bill that would make sweeping changes to the labor rules at McCormick Place. On May 26, Quinn made a veto, sending the bill back to the General Assembly requesting some changes. One change dealt with streamlining the number of union jurisdictions working at the facility, another concerned the General Assembly’s authority to appoint a person to oversee the changes. However, the General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected the veto on May 27 and the bill became law.

The law institutes several major changes for exhibitors and show organizers. In short, the new labor rules are designed to reduce crew sizes, require less overtime pay, and eliminate hassles for customers. Specifically, the law lets customers set up their own booths, select outside food-and-beverage and electrical contractors, pay only straight time for labor performed weekdays in the first eight-hour shift that occurs between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and set the size of the work crew based on safety needs and the scope of work, among other changes.

Also, the law appoints former chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Transportation Authority, Jim Reilly, to oversee operations during an 18-month transition period and select a private manager for McCormick Place. (The new law establishes an 18-month period to develop and implement the reforms.)

The changes took on a sense of urgency late last year when several large associations—including the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association—announced that they were not rebooking Chicago because of high labor costs.

Officials at MPEA, which owns McCormick Place, and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau applauded the passage of the legislation. “This was always about protecting jobs and preserving an industry that provides $8 billion in economic impact for our state,” said John Gates, chairman of the Interim MPEA Board in a statement. Tim Roby, president and CEO at CCTB, believes this legislation will renew Chicago’s status as a premier convention destination.

Officials say customers are pleased with the law, including the International Housewares Association, which will continue its longtime affiliation with Chicago. “This law will make McCormick Place a more cost-effective tradeshow venue and IHA's preferred destination for years to come,” said Mia Rampersad, vice president, tradeshow, at the IHA.

Illinois Legislators Pass McCormick Place Reform Bill

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