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Alana Roberts

MAGIC Contract Talks Lead to Walk-Out

3 September 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Teamsters-led workers walked off their jobs breaking down MAGIC Marketplace at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday evening, following a collapse in negotiations for contracts that expired at the end of June.

Teamsters Local 631 represents about 3,200 workers in the convention industry. The members work for general contractors GES Exposition Services and Freeman Decorating and a group of about 80 exhibitor-appointed contractors, Ed Burke, secretary-treasurer of Local 631, said Wednesday.

Detra Page, a spokeswoman at GES, said some of the workers came back to work today.

Burke said negotiations with GES and Freeman on a contract, separate from the exhibitor-appointed contractors, have broken down because of a proposal from the companies that would make fewer workers eligible for health care benefits.

Burke said both sets of companies were to have last, best and final contract proposals to the Teamsters on Thursday before workers walked off their jobs. He said the Teamsters didn't have a problem with proposals offered by the exhibitor-appointed contractors.

Burke said last week that a strike was imminent. Workers are set to vote on the proposals at a Sept. 9 ratification meeting.

"It looks like there's not going to be any way to avoid it," Burke said.

He said the 3 1/2-year contracts expired at the end of May and were extended until the end of June. Since then the workers have worked under the previous contract. He said in the expired contract, workers had already made contributions to health benefits by having portions of their wage hikes go to health benefits.

Burke said a journeyman makes $21.86 an hour, however he said the workers don't always work full time.

He said the earlier proposals from GES and Freeman Companies demanded that the minimum number of hours worked in a month that would make workers eligible for health care benefits be changed from 86 hours to 173 hours a month. Burke said that requirement would make 80 percent of the workers ineligible for health benefits.

He said most of the workers already don't receive paid sick leave or vacation pay and that the workers hope to start some sort of vacation fund in order to help them cope with slow times in the convention industry which are generally in June, July and December.

"They're not traditional jobs. A lot of the members that work in the convention industry have to have other jobs," Burke said.

He said last week that the union planned to send letters to companies that produce conventions to warn them of a possible strike and to apologize for any inconvenience a work stoppage would cause.

Burke could not be reached for comment this morning. Jim Ness, general manager at Freeman Companies, could not be reached for comment this morning.