April 4, 2011
A federal judge on March 31, 2011, ruled the state legislation that altered the collective bargaining agreement for trade show workers at McCormick Place be overturned because it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.
"It was a long, difficult road, but in the end, justice was served," said John T. Coli, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 727, which represents hundreds of trade show workers. "We vowed to fight for our members every step of the way no matter what, and that is exactly what we have done."
Local 727 spent more than $150,000 in litigation fees over the past 10 months to fight the legislation after filing a lawsuit in federal court on June 7, 2010, to declare parts of the new Act to be unconstitutional, and therefore, null and void.
Public Act 898, signed into law on May 28, 2010, was aimed at changing union work rules because lawmakers want to lower costs at McCormick Place as an overreaction to a drop in convention business. However, Local 727 contended that those modifications were unconstitutional, interfered with the National Labor Relations Act, and 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," Coli said. "Legislators let their own feelings of panic cloud their judgment, and they bowed to the trade show managers. Workers shouldn't have to suffer because of that shortsightedness."
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority overhaul ignored current collective bargaining agreements and specifically regulated, restricted and impaired the ability of unions to negotiate with employers over wages, hours and working conditions for duties performed on the premises of the MPEA. Because the new law attempted to set and regulate labor policy on MPEA premises, it interfered with established collective bargaining agreements and national labor statutes.
"This case is important to the entire labor movement. There were serious constitutional issues being discussed and debated," Coli said. "Win or lose, we knew we had to fight."
Union representatives expect to meet with trade show contractors soon to discuss the outcome of the litigation and what needs to happen moving forward.
Local 727 representatives also will hold a member meeting at McCormick Place in the coming weeks to discuss the ruling and what it means for their members.