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Mayor Rahm Emanuel: ‘I will not lose’ more trade show business

Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes an announcement Tuesday June 14 2011 with MotorolPresident CEO Greg Brown th Motorolis adding 400 jobs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes an announcement Tuesday, June 14, 2011, with Motorola President and CEO Greg Brown, that Motorola is adding 400 jobs to it's Chicago operations. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 3, 2011 9:12PM

Declaring “I will not lose,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he will not allow the threat of rising labor expenses to cost McCormick Place any more trade shows than the one it has already lost.

One day after the Car Care World Expo became the first show to leave Chicago after a court overturned cost-saving work-rule changes, Emanuel declared the reforms imposed by the Illinois General Assembly essential to the survival of Chicago’s convention business.

Emanuel said he was so concerned about the first trade show exit, he assembled his Washington-style Mayor’s Economic, Budgetary and Business Development Council to deal with the issue.

“I don’t like losing. I’m about winning, and the city of Chicago is about winning. ... We have to stay competitive, and it is my determination that we, as a city will stay competitive, and I will not lose,” the mayor told reporters at an unrelated news conference called to announce an expansion of Motorola Solutions.

Pounding the podium for emphasis, Emanuel said, “It concerns me when any company decides not to take their business or trade show here. … You cannot lose this business to another city, and I intend on being aggressive about it.”

Emanuel noted that the reform bill approved by the Legislature last year to cut costs and stop a trade show exodus to Las Vegas, Orlando and Atlanta was being challenged in court by two major unions.

“It was a good agreement. It allowed us to sign new shows that we’ve never had. And if our costs get out of control, these shows — like Motorola, like United Airlines — they are mobile. They will go where they get the best price or where they have the best workers or where they have the best geography. And it will be a combination of all those factors,” the mayor said.

Pressed on whether it was time to re-write the bill, Emanuel said, “I don’t think we’re at the point where we have to rewrite it. But I want to be clear to all the parties involved that this … was a good agreement for the convention business to stay competitive. ... And unless you bring your costs in line, an industry or company or association is gonna make a business decision about costs.”

The McCormick Place reforms became law when state lawmakers overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto. A federal judge subsequently struck down the reforms after a legal challenge mounted by two major unions.

Teamsters Local 727 and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters have argued that work rule changes should have been negotiated at the bargaining table — not unilaterally imposed by the Legislature.

McCormick Place has appealed the ruling and asked that the reforms remain in place until the appeal is heard.

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