Investing a fraction of their promised $16 million in TIF funding, Hammes bought off the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin with a pledge of $200,000 for work force initiatives. The local mainstream media reports that the agreement "makes the Edgewater a union project."
As Brenda Konkel astutely pointed out, we don't know what's really in the agreement (they won't let anyone see it).
I suspect the "union project" is strictly limited to the construction phase. I cannot imagine that the Edgewater Hotel will become a union shop. I know of no other downtown hotel that charges union labor fees to exhibitors at trade shows, for instance, which makes Monona Terrace a more expensive place to do business in many cases.
Will the addition of taxpayer-subsidized new meeting space overlooking one of Madison's lakes cut into Monona Terrace's business? Probably. There is a finite amount of convention business that Madison can attract. We are limited by our regional airport; no amount of shiny new hotel space will change that.
Will the increased competition put pressure on Monona Terrace to reduce its requirements for exhibitors to use union labor for set up? That is exactly what happened with Chicago's McCormick Place. Earlier this year, the state legislature pushed through legislation that allows exhibitors to do more of their own set-up work, in order to make McCormick Place more competitive. These reforms led a group of construction workers to picket a trade show over the weekend.
So, the main question that organized labor should be asking is: how many union jobs at Monona Terrace will be lost thanks to the Edgewater project?
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