Citing new work rules that allow more exhibitors to set up their own booths, the American Industrial Hygiene Assocation says it is moving its 6,000-delegate 2018 convention to Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center after staying away since its 2007 show. (More on this story, including inside details on how the association bet on new labor rules, from my colleague Jane Von Bergen in tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer)
Up until now, "bringing a large meeting to the Center was simply too difficult because of onerous work rules and limitations on exhibitors. This meant that, despite a successful meeting in 2007, AIHA would not reconsider Philadelphia," Peter J. O'Neil, the hygenist group's executive-director, said in a statement. "With better work rules, expanded exhibitor rights," and cooperative local tourism officials, he added, "we could not say no. We look forward to our meeting and to spending money in Philadelphia."
The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau says convention attendees will rent more than 16,000 hotel nights and spend millions. "The conference is the first to publicly announce a booking at the Convention Center since the new Customer Satisfaction Agreement, which modernizes the Center's work rules and expands customer rights, was signed by four labor unions and ratified by the Center's Board of Directors last month," said the convention center in a statement.
The move also follows the departure of a Carpenters' union local, along with Teamsters, after they refused to sign the new labor agreement, leaving the Laborers, Electrical Workers, Riggers (Ironworkers) and Stagehands to handle a reduced workload (compensated, they hope, by attracting more shows.) The Carpenters and Teamsters have complained to the National Labor Relations Board that they have been unfairly excluded and have held demonstrations calling the center's practices unfair.
"While only in place for just a few weeks, we are pleased that show organizers are already talking about how efficiently the Convention Center is now operating," said Lorenz Hassenstein, the center's general manager, in a statement. The four unions that agreed to the new rules "have a cooperative and customer service-approach which reaffirms to our customers an important change in our business practices," he added.
"When the Board moved to establish improved work rules and expanded exhibitor rights, we were acting on feedback from our customers with the goal of delivering an improved experience and reducing costs," said center board chairman Gregory J. Fox, in a statement. "This is exactly the type of event we were hoping would give Philadelphia a second look following the recent changes we put in place," starting with the hiring of West Conshohocken-based SMG, which employs Hassenstein, to run the center, and including the new labor rules. "We are hopeful that this is just the first of many conferences and events that will return to Philadelphia."