The Stimson Report April 2008

This month I have been thinking a lot about labor and staffing. Coincidentally there has been a huge story developing with a management lockout of three labor unions responsible for AV at the St Louis Convention Center. All the best links are included, so please read on. Next, I want to share some web-based products where project managers (and we all manage projects, don't we?) can share information. Then while you are thinking about how stay ahead of your shows, let me present another AV Industry B2B with a brilliant strategy. Read on in this month's The Stimson Report.

News and Thoughts:
On Mar 24, the three audio-visual unions that supply services at America's Center were locked out from St. Louis' downtown convention center. The dispute was quickly resolved by April 4th, but the story has some interesting overtones for the AV R&S Industry. Three weeks ago, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) notified IATSE Local 6 (stagehands), IATSE Local 143 (projectionists) and IBEW Local 1 (electricians), that going forward only employees of America's Center would provide audio-visual services to contractors working in the facility. Union representatives call the move illegal, while the CVC maintains that the unions practices are driving convention business away from the city.

Post-convention surveys for the Americas Center and St. Louis Convention Center indicate that businesses are frequently subjected to work stoppages while the three locals navigate their own rules. Some jurisdictions are so complex that one union handles a plasma television if it arrives by a local truck, and another if it arrives by an over-the-road truck, but a third local delivers it to the booth. Other complaints cite two locals claiming jurisdiction over breakout rooms, requiring at least three techs on the clock for every ten breakout rooms regardless of complexity. Add on top of this are shadowing requirements that force contractors to hire union workers for jobs already being performed by the contractors employees. There is a lot more you can read about this at the two links below. The Riverfront Times lockout story includes several pdfs of customer surveys, correspondence between the parties, and letters written to the CVC from customers about the issues.

As stated above, this lockout has already been resolved and the news is good for everyone involved. The big winner is the Americas Center and its customers, but I am sure the unions are happy to get their people back to work. The new accord allows outside contractors (AV Companies) to bring in their own operators (for key positions), which is standard practice for the industry. It also eliminates the shadowing for those positions. The CVC also gains control of facility-owned stages up to 48 not a trivial matter when it took a four our minimum to drop a 6x8 stage. In addition, the projectionists and electricians that previously had overlapping (read: conflicting) video jurisdictions will now share the work and cross-train. This seems to be a very logical and convention-friendly resolution. The upside for the unions will eventually be an increase in convention business, and more work for them. The details of the new rules are covered in this link:

Information Sharing for Project Management
As any of my clients will tell you, I am pretty non-partisan about how you share information as long as you share it. Lately we have been exploring file sharing and project management systems. There are several completely web-based approaches to project management that companies of all size should take a look at. These are not replacements for inventory management or proposal systems. Instead they solve the challenge of sharing multiple files, monitoring approvals and versions, and controlling view and editing privileges. Basecamp offers very scalable solutions that work very well with the AV Stagers (and Integrators) project management timeline.

Nexprise is similar to Basecamp, but offers customization and programming.

If you want it all, then look at Its is a Customer Relationship Manager with hundreds of optional applications that can customize your experiences including a Basecamp-like module. Salesforce is worth looking at to understand what the possibilities are.

Show Staffing Consultants
I have a lot of friends in the event staffing business (I even had my own staffing company from 83-96), and I used all of them over the years. Because staffing has been a theme of late, I tried to find one company to feature that has a different angle than the rest. I didnt just find different, I found unique. Floyd Dillman started Event Engineering about seventeen years ago as a labor brokerage in Chicago. Event Engineerings specialty is consulting with clients about their labor budget, schedules, and crew mix. Floyd and his team have a three-pronged approach to helping customers. First, these guys know the rules and maintain the union relationships so you dont have to. Second, Event Engineering is the employer of record and hand picks its crews. Third, they know how to maximize a show schedule, stagger crews, and negotiate concessions when it makes sense for everyone. Bottom line, they are consultants.