Chicago court ruling may affect future HIMSS conferences

The much-publicized decision for HIMSS to return to Chicago’s McCormick Place for its 2015 and 2019 annual conferences may be on hold, after a federal judge rejected portions of an Illinois law that would have helped reduce the high costs of exhibiting. HIMSS had shifted its 2012 conference to Las Vegas after vendors complained of price gouging at HIMSS09 in Chicago.

According to the Chicago Tribune, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Guzman ruled Thursday that federal law prohibits states from passing legislation that would restrict private-sector employees from negotiating their own labor contracts. Though McCormick Place is run by a city-state public agency, most of the unionized laborers at the convention center work for private contractors, the newspaper reports.

Exhibitors and visitors alike have long complained about the high cost of doing business at McCormick place, due to rules that specify minimum crew sizes and billing times and restrictive union contracts that prohibit exhibitors from carrying in many of their own displays and even performing such mundane tasks as plugging in electrical cords on the exhibit floor. Materials costs also have been an issue; it reportedly cost one exhibitor $345 to get four cases of Pepsi delivered to its booth for a 2009 show.

Illinois and the City of Chicago enacted a set of new work rules for McCormick Place last year, which prompted HIMSS and a few other large events to sign contracts to return.

HIMSS hasn’t publicly commented on this latest development, but I’m waiting on a statement from the Chicago-based organization, and will update this post once I get that.