Unions and Corruption Plague Chicago’s Convention Business

Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center is one of the largest convention halls in the world. With a total of 2,670,000 square feet of exhibition space and clocking in at a building cost of nearly one billion dollars it had better be one of the biggest, after all Chicago does do things big. Sadly that includes big corruption and unfortunately that corruption is turning “the city that works” into the city that lost its jobs.

This week Chicago’s Mayor Richard “King” Daley railed against the conditions that have made Chicago’s convention business a wreck these days. Along with Governor Pat Quinn, Daley has unveiled new work rules that would prevent unions from striking and would change union policies so that the high, high costs of bringing a convention to Chicago might come down.

Naturally, Daley was too weak-kneed to assign the blame where it mostly belongs: unions. Even as all his fixes center on alterations in union operations, Daley refused to say this is mostly the fault of the overweening and costly unions.

Regardless of Daley’s squeamishness to place the blame where it really belongs, there is no doubt that unions are at fault. Blame for the loss in revenue is widely and properly placed on the heads of unworkable union rules. To be sure, the single most common reason blamed for the cause of conventions going elsewhere is that unions simply make the cost of holding a convention here too high. The next biggest reason claimed by folks that go elsewhere is the high taxes.

Of course, Chicago has already lost several million dollars in convention business for the 2010 season (see previous stories here, and here). For those shows these changes are too late.

But corruption also reigns in the management of McCormick Place in the government controlled corporation that operates the place. Even as Chicago was losing trade shows right and left, the McPier board was adding big salaries to its financial responsibilities.

A Chicago Sun-Times analysis of payroll records shows 54 employees of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority were making at least $100,000 as of September 2009. That’s eight more than the agency, familiarly known as McPier, had in 2006, the records show — a 17 percent increase.

So, with this news, how about you start by firing a whole lot of useless, but expensive administrators of McPier, eh, “King” Daley? Or are all those guys the sort of political hires that you just can’t do without!?

Unions are certainly a large part of the corruption factor that is driving business out of Chicago. But if Daely doesn’t look at the corruption endemic in government he’s not going to be able to fix the problems facing Chicago’s convention business losses.

(Cross posted at TheUnionLabelBlog.com)

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