Here is my issue: union labor can make life good or a misery for a show manager. Every city is different in every way...what the rules are, what the cost is and how trained/worthless the labor is. If you have a show that travels, it is a constant education process to let exhibitors know what the rules are this year and how much they should budget.
I want to start a union. I'll call it Local KJ #1. Then I will convince people that I have a right to perform duties for them that they are willing and able to do on their own and that they owe it to me to pay me and make sure that I am earning a living. Of course, I can allow them to do there own work as long as they still pay me. Of course, I will earn overtime and double time based on the time of day and day of the week because that's just simpler for billing purposes.
I went to a session today at IAEE that made me so angry (can you tell?), I'm considering making it my lifes mission to destroy all unions and a couple of GSC's. Somewhat destructive for a lifes mission...it's no feeding the hungry or world peace, but I believe it needs to be done.
First of all, why is that all union leaders have the same obnoxious smirk on their face. It's superior and annoying because no matter what they say, they've got us and they know it. But what really chapped my hide today was the fact that both the union and the GSC reps on hand had no problem putting all the blame of union issues on the shoulders of the show manager.
To be fair, I'll take my share of the blame. The GSC has to mark up prices of everything, including labor, in order to pay for the work they do complimentary for the show and make a profit, which is what they are in business to do. Fine. But the train came off the tracks almost immediately after this point was made.
Never have I had a GSC talk to me about how to keep exhibitor costs down, even when I asked about it. How much less can I make exhibitor costs by simplifying other things? How much are you marking up items? Do you want to tell me? No, because then I would know the margin and may want to negotiate that. the horror. Don't talk to me about transparency when it is like pulling teeth to get basic show information from you and there is a lot of information I won't ever get from you. So, while I undertsand that the GSC doesn't like to be blamed for high prices, let's not blame the show manager when you have done NOTHING to help the manager understand what portion of those prices are related to their own actions.
The union, as well, is a big fan of blaming the show manager because the show manager should be asking about the agreements between the GSC and the union and comparing cities and then not hire a GSC or a city that you can't work in. That's a nice theory, but I have inherited nearly every city and GSC I have worked in or with, so that makes it difficult. Even at my last association, no one in the conference department was included in the selection of cities, and there are many organizations that operate this way (even though it makes no sense). I believe that cities and GSC's bank on it. Give enough presents to the people that sign off and you can get away with a lot.
Furthermore, according to the union, they are all too happy to negotiate with show management if we envision problems arising. Whatever. The truth is some cities suck to work in and everone knows it no matter how "willing to work with show management" the union claims to be. My favorite part of the session was in the beggining when the case for unions was made. We use them to provide show management with qualified and trained labor, but evidently the union isn't sure that it's their job to provide the training. After all, the GSC is the entitiy that needs the work done.
That philosophy actually explains a lot in terms of why the labor pool varies so much city to city. The locals that believe it is their job to not only say they are providing a trained labor pool, but then actually provide that, are evident. Sadly, this is not all of them, and that is equally clear.
Oddly, in many industries a higher price and stricter rules lead to a higher quality product and yet that is not always the case in labor. In fact some of the most complained about unions are also the most restrictive and expensive. They claim that the "stories" of the behavior issues are just lore that we, as show managers, should stop perpetuating. But what about my first-hand stories, I wonder. Should I also put thsoe from my mind as urban legend...maybe I dreamed it?
Again, I am happy to take my share of the blame, but evidently I'm the only one. That being the case, the destruction of the labor situation as we know it today is imperative and we should start over. I was outdone with these people today. I could go on because there was so much ridiculousness, but I won't. Must begin strategic planning for the new mission.