GES in Standoff with Chicago Warehouse Carpenters Union

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Chicago, IL – Global Experience Specialists (GES) has rejected what it said was the final offer from union carpenters at its Chicago warehouse and called on the trade show industry to “stand together and refuse to accept outrageous union wage demands.”

Members of Carpenters Local 1027, GES’s in-house union employees, remained on the job at the GES facility June 5. The previous four-year contract expired May 31 and GES said no further negotiations were scheduled. The move-in and move-out of trade shows at McCormick Place has not been affected by the labor dispute.

“GES is pushing back against the union’s pressure to accept an offer that it believes is detrimental to its clients and the trade show industry,” the company said in a written statement. “GES believes that industry professionals need to stand together and refuse to accept outrageous union wage demands that will only increase the cost of doing business.”

The union was insisting on a 17% wage increase over four years in addition to the 14% increase in benefits received over the past three years. GES said its latest offer was a 15% pay hike over four years.

“The consumer price index is at 2%,” said GES President Steve Moster. “Despite this, the union is demanding a more than 4% per year increase. We rejected the union’s last, best and final offer in order to keep the overall cost of exhibiting down.”

There was no indication Local 1027 would strike in the near future. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters told Trade Show Executive they had no immediate comment on the standoff.

Local 1027 carpenters perform a variety of tasks at the GES warehouse, including fabrication of exhibits, registration counters and other structures used at trade shows. They also handle inventorying and tracking client property.

Union carpenters at Chicago’s McCormick Place are represented by Local 10, which was one of the trades that signed off in 2011 on a sweeping package of labor reforms that were seen as concessions by union leaders.

Moster said the dispute with its carpenters had ramifications for the entire trade show industry, which had aggressively campaigned for the reforms at McCormick Place that were necessary to keep Chicago competitive in exhibition market. “Although a labor action is something we work hard to avoid, we should not give in to outrageous wage demands,” he said. “It is necessary to take a stand to keep costs down, especially in our industry’s current economic climate, and as Chicago works to regain its prominence in the convention industry.”

Reach Steve Moster at (702) 515-5500 or smoster@ges.com; Frank Libby, president and executive secretary-treasurer, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, at (312) 787-3076 or flibby@carpentersunion.org