Should Union Workers Be Blamed for Big Markups at Convention Center?

"Standard practice" lets middlemen charge quadruple for using union workers.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The Inquirer reports that last week’s National Homeland Security Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center paid $152.25 per hour per union rigger — but that workers themselves earned $35.11 an hour of that total, “$59.70 with health insurance, pension, and union dues rolled in.”

While that’s still a pretty nice wage, it’s not $152.25. So what’s going on?

The markups — charged by middleman companies, called decorators, that coordinate labor and other aspects of conventions — are standard industry practice, executives in the convention business say.

Standard practice or not, “these layers of costs create an impression of higher labor costs,” said John Dougherty, business manager of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The unions say they ‘d like to bring transparency to billing, so that they don’t get blamed for markups that don’t benefit their workers at all. “Gregory Fox, the lawyer who chairs the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority board, said a better understanding of decorator billing practices was next on the board’s agenda.”