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Labor Wins Round In Dispute Over McCormick Place Reforms

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McCormick Place

McCormick Place (CBS File Photo)

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UPDATED 07/11/11 8:45 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) –- A federal appeals court on Monday said no to a request by officials at McCormick Place to keep labor changes in effect while they appeal a ruling that the changes made by state lawmakers are illegal.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Dave Marsett reports, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman had ruled in March that many of the reforms are illegal because the Illinois General Assembly went beyond the terms of union contracts in ordering them. The judge said the legislators’ action overturned collective bargaining rights in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Dave Marsett reports

Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit denied a request to keep the show-floor changes in effect temporarily, it granted a request for an expedited appeal process.

Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority trustee Jim Reilly says the agency will do whatever it takes to save Chicago’s convention and trade show business. Mayor Rahm Emanuel struck a similar tone in a statement he released Monday.

“Chicago’s convention industry is a major asset and economic engine for our city, creating 66,000 jobs, generating $251 million in state and local taxes and bringing in more than $8 billion in spending to Illinois annually,” Emanuel said. “Despite today’s ruling, I will continue to work with state and local leaders from both parties to fight for a solution that ensures the competiveness and vitality of Chicago’s convention industry.”

Back in January, the news coming from McCormick Place seemed to be good. Two years after bolting over high costs, the Healthcare and Information and Management Systems Society decided to return to McCormick Place in 2015 and 2019.

Healthcare Information and Management Systems met for the first time at McCormick Place in 2009, drawing 27,000 attendees and generating an estimated $55 million in spending. The show was supposed to return in 2012, but instead chose Las Vegas for cost reasons.

In addition to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems convention, the International Plastics Exposition announced in the fall of 2009 that it was moving to Orlando, Fla., after being held in Chicago since 1971. Championship Auto Shows Inc. also moved its O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels Show from McCormick Place to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

In addition to the high union fees, exhibitors complained that there were too many different unions, jurisdictions and work rules involved in the setup process.

The resulting outrage resulted in the state-mandated overhaul. State lawmakers passed a bill that cut labor costs by allowing exhibitors to do their own setup, and also by letting them use outside electricians and bring in their own food, bypassing convention center unions. It doubled the ground transportation tax charged on trips to and from Chicago’s airports to boost tourism spending.

The overhaul survived a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn, and then-Mayor Richard M. Daley credited the changes for keeping McCormick Place alive.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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