Planners often think of
unions -- organizations of workers formed to protect
members’ interests when it comes to wages and working conditions --
as rigid entities that are difficult and expensive to deal with.
Nevertheless, knowing how to work with and not against them is
essential for a better show, as partnering with unions typically
will ensure a highly skilled and experienced work force.
Following are some tips for dealing
Learn the Roles
Unions that work on events generally
are divided among the following categories:
Teamsters are licensed
to handle and unload freight and oversee “drayage” -- the hauling
of freight from loading docks to and from a venue.
installers rig banners and install booths, carpeting and
all other trimmings.
facilitate all electrical needs.
Stage hands oversee
anything having to do with stages, including installation and
breakdown of lighting and audiovisual equipment.
Food and beverage
workers handle meal preparation and serving and related
services; they also might perform janitorial functions.
Know the Rules
Unions exist in virtually every city in
the world. Some cities specifically are referred to as “union
cities” -- e.g., Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Simply, this
means there is a formal working arrangement between the unions, the
city and the primary convention facilities. While the surrounding
hotels are not necessarily bound by such agreements, they
inevitably go along with them, as they often rely upon the city and
convention centers to fill their rooms.
Different unions support one another
and often share solidarity agreements, especially if they work
together in the same facilities. The manner in which unions
integrate varies from state to state. In California, for example,
there is more leniency about union functions that overlap. In San
Francisco, it’s not uncommon for stage hands and riggers to perform
similar functions. In Chicago, on the other hand, teamsters can
carry power strips to the show floor, but the strips need to be
plugged into sockets by electricians.
Get to know local unions by visiting www.unions.org.
Familiarize yourself with their rules before finalizing your budget
and projecting your production schedule.
One of the most stressful aspects of
working with unions involves the threat of strikes. Work stoppages
not only affect the event and attendees; they also can severely
damage the facility and the host city.
Strike insurance is recommended for
events that attract more than 100 attendees who have to travel a
great distance. The coverage should be comprehensive, as liability
might extend far beyond refunding fees, and it should include
reimbursing large sponsorships as well as shipping and
transportation costs, and the associated damages as perceived and
defined by the stakeholders.
There are a number of specialty
insurance brokers throughout the United States that can furnish
strike insurance policies. Corporate planners should work through
their legal departments.
When it comes to preparing a
contingency plan, questions to ask include: Will you still attempt
to hold the program in case of a strike? Would it be preferable to
move or scale your program down? Would hiring nonunion substitutes
be acceptable? Would hiring subs cause more liability? Might key
participants/staff refuse to cross a picket line?
Most importantly, note that force
majeure clauses covering your facility and entertainment do not
include strikes unless specifically outlined in your contract.
Louise M. Felsher, CMP,
CMM,is senior event operations manager with
George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos,