A major overhaul of labor rules at McCormick Place last year, designed to make the facility more customer-friendly to meeting and show organizers, was overturned by the U.S. District Court in Chicago last week, leaving Chicago convention authorities frustrated. They are appealing the decision to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place, and the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau are “greatly disturbed” at the March 31 ruling by the U.S. District Court to overturn labor reforms approved last May by the Illinois General Assembly, according to a statement on the ChooseChicago Web site. MPEA officials said that they will continue to operate under the new labor reforms while they seek a stay and appeal, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“As all observers of the convention and tradeshow business are aware, the implementation of those reforms has, virtually overnight, transformed McCormick Place from a great convention and trade show facility that was rapidly losing its customer base into an industry power house,” said officials in the http://www.choosechicago.com/meetingplanners/Pages/default.aspx statement.

However, after the reforms were passed, Teamsters Local 727 and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters filed a lawsuit saying that the reforms were unconstitutional, interfered with the National Labor Relations Act, and were an overreaction to the drop in convention business. Labor leaders contend that the reforms will not, ultimately, lower convention costs because they are not directed at the parties actually controlling those costs. "The only ones who were asked to make concessions were labor organizations," said John Coli, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 727. "Legislators let their own feelings of panic cloud their judgment," he added.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ruled in favor of the union, stating that the state legislation interfered with and altered the established collective bargaining agreement and is pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act. (The ruling does not impact other aspects of the reform legislation, including MPEA’s trusteeship or the power of the Interim Board to put into place private management.)

Convention officials in Chicago said the reforms have had a positive impact on the economy in Chicago, attracting new events as well as enticing existing meeting clients to return. Among those that booked Chicago following the reforms was the National Restaurant Association, which signed a five-year deal with the CCTB to hold its annual National Restaurant Association, Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event in Chicago through 2016. The NRA Show draws about 66,000 attendees.