More to come on this one but it is turning out to be quite a stir in the trade show and convention community. There are some unanswered questions on both sides and some angry exhibitors and show organizers.
San Jose, CA — 1 September — The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), The International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing (ICEEM), the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) and the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) met on 27 August with senior executives of the San Jose Convention Center (SJCC) at that center to try to resolve serious issues arising from the 1 August implementation of a new exclusive labor agreement between SJCC and Teamsters Local 287.
IAEE, ICEEM, ESCA and SISO asked that SJCC temporarily suspend its exclusive in-house labor agreement in order to furnish an ample opportunity to discuss how the group’s key concerns might be resolved. SJCC refused the group’s request to suspend the program and offered only minor token concessions on 1 September.
Among the concerns expressed to SJCC:
1. The decision by SJCC to take Teamsters labor in-house exclusively using Teamsters Local 287 (San Jose) immediately creates a very serious jurisdictional and contractual conflict. It places the general service contractors in the position of being forced to ignore their collective bargaining agreement with Teamsters Local 85 (San Francisco) if they are to work in the building. Doing so would, no doubt, result in a grievance filed with good reason by Local 85 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and might very well trigger a work action response from the International Teamsters Union that could target events in other cities. The action taken by SJCC places the contractors and their clients in a serious state of jeopardy and in an intolerable situation.
2. Team San Jose’s actions place organizers, exhibitors and contractors in legal peril by exposing them to liability claims for injuries sustained by teamsters of Local 287. When a general service contractor supervises the labor call it and its clients (organizers and exhibitors) are shielded from these exposures by virtue of the exclusive remedies provided to them under Worker’s Compensation laws. Since SJCC proposes to become responsible for the teamster labor it is shielded from these liabilities but others including the contractors, organizers and exhibitors are considered third parties and are not shielded from civil liabilities. Workers injured on the job could collect from SJCC’s Worker’s Compensation insurance and could then also sue the organizer, contractor and/or exhibitor as well.
3. The costs and new work rules established by SJCC for labor under its program will increase labor costs to end users (organizers and exhibitors) very substantially. The plan introduces new rules that will add additional costs such as that for non-working supervisors, and it will also reduce flexibility (the lowest labor rates must be ordered more than 14 days in advance; no labor can be ordered after 3:00 p.m.; phone orders are not accepted; orders will not be guaranteed with less than 24 hours advance notice). Overtime and last minute labor calls will drive prices even higher. Teamsters of Local 287 who are now considered “casual workers” will be entitled to secure “seniority status” under a much accelerated schedule thus entitling many, if not most, teamsters to significantly enhanced benefits for which customers will be required to pay.
4. The abruptness of the introduction of the new policy leaves those events that are scheduled to use the SJCC in the next several months in a particularly difficult position. Their budgets have been fixed based upon costs and rules that SJCC has invalidated. Many will have no alternative but to pay substantially higher costs. Moreover, the new agreement tramples on the contracts in place between many of the general service contractors and their organizer and exhibitor customers. Many of the contracts are multi-year agreements.
Speaking on behalf of IAEE, President Steven Hacker, CAE, said, “Our industry has been struggling to meet the unprecedented challenges of a severely impaired economy coupled with dramatic attendance reductions and corporate travel restrictions. The unexpected action of the San Jose Convention Center that imposes a new labor agreement that ignores existing binding labor agreements and does so with no prior consultation nor any forewarning is, in my opinion, a grossly unfair and irresponsible act that cannot and will not be condoned.”
Margaret Pederson, Chair of the IAEE Board of Directors added, “no one objects to the long term goal of the San Jose Convention Center to improve the quality of service that is provided in its building, that is, of course, a laudable goal. However, that end does not justify these means. It also seems somewhat ironic that the new San Jose Convention Center labor program that is destined to cost customers substantially more has been introduced at about the same time as an agreement is being finalized in New York that would freeze labor rates at Jacob Javits Convention Center through next year.”
When asked what will be IAEE’s next steps, Pederson, responded that “this issue will be taken up at the next IAEE board of directors meeting on 12 September. This is a complex set of issues and there are many options available to IAEE that we will want to weigh. We will withhold any further comment until after the board has fully considered the matter.”
I am going to see if I can contact someone at San Jose for comment.