Aug. 2, 2012
Teamsters Local 727 member Matt Spinks is a father of four and a union steward, two jobs he takes very seriously.
“My kids keep me on my toes, that’s for sure; it seems like every day they have another activity going on,” said Spinks, 40. “Being steward can be difficult sometimes, but I know how important it is. I’ve been working for GES for 20 years, so I know the contract inside and out. I’m glad to help.”
Spinks is one of about 10 Teamsters who regularly serve as trade show foremen for exhibition company GES. The foreman is responsible for a lot of the preparation and planning that goes into a show – filling out the necessary paperwork, putting together inventory lists and working with different departments to finalize details.
“When you’re a foreman, it’s your job to remember everything at the warehouse. If you go to load in a show, and you forgot something, you’re stuck,” said Spinks, a Bensenville native who has been a Teamster since 1991. “It can be a lot of work, especially depending on the size of the show, but I enjoy the change of pace.”
Several trade unions work under one roof at the GES warehouse – decorators, electricians and carpenters, among them – and Teamsters handle the heavy lifting. More than 40 Local 727 members transport furniture, carpeting, displays and custom booths around the warehouse and to and from trade show sites like McCormick Place.
GES relocated from its facility near Midway International Airport to a new warehouse in Hodgkins, Ill., at the beginning of the year after the company purchased another exhibition group. The new warehouse is about 500,000 square feet with 30-foot ceilings, and there also is a separate 14,000-square-foot office building on the property.
The move has resulted in better working conditions – “it stays much cooler in here in the summer than it did at the old place,” Spinks said — and more Teamsters working on a daily basis.
“The trade show industry can fluctuate depending on the season, and this new facility has helped more of our members maintain steady hours throughout the year,” said John Coli Jr., President of Local 727. “
Despite its massive square footage, it is still a relatively tight fit in the new warehouse, which Spinks said can make Local 727 members’ jobs even more challenging.
“In some areas, boxes are stacked nearly to the ceiling, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the aisles, either,” Spinks said. “You might need a box that’s in the middle of a huge stack, so you’ll have to maneuver things around with the forklift to find what you’re looking for and then put everything back together again. It can be really time-consuming, and it takes a lot of skill and concentration.”
After 20-plus years at GES, Spinks said he still finds enjoyment in the variety of duties he is tasked with from week to week.
“Sometimes I’m in the warehouse, sometimes I’m doing foreman stuff, sometimes I’m working at a show site, sometimes I travel to different cities for shows. It’s good. I’m not stuck in one place all the time and I’m always doing something different,” he said. “It makes the job a lot more fun.”