Tips on Hosting Your Event at a Union Property

Aug 12, 2021

Leveraging Clarity's Experience in Planning an Event at a Union Property


The topic of union properties vs. non-union properties is a hot topic in the events industry. From a meeting planner's perspective, it can be very different planning an event at a union property versus a non-union property and it is easy to get into situations where you don’t fully know what you are signing up for, which is why we are here to break it down for you!

Meeting planners: Clarity recommends that you look at a wide variety of properties, both union and non-union, so you can make sure you’re getting exactly what you’re looking for when selecting your venue for your live event. You can leverage an AV partner like Clarity that can help navigate the differences between the two, how each of them is going to impact your event, as well as help you map it all out.  

If you are a meeting planner that isn’t fully confident on union properties vs. non-union properties, you can rest assured! Clarity is here to explain the difference between the two and let you know how you can leverage Clarity’s experience in planning an event at a union property. Keep on reading to learn:

  1. How union properties differ from non-union properties in terms of cost
    1. Cities with more union-heavy venues
  2. Clarity’s role in helping meeting planners put on an event at a union property
    1. How Clarity is different from other AV companies
    2. How Clarity can help negotiate with union properties

How union properties differ from non-union properties in terms of cost


Union properties could cost meeting planners 40-50% more in labor and exclusives compared to non-union properties based on a few key variables. The first is labor. Union labor is often “specialized,” meaning each union representative has a certain skill set which he/she is approved for and they can only work under the approved skillset. In a non-union environment, labor can more easily cross over between multiple skills. This becomes important in regards to conferences and events because many of them have a simple AV production element and having labor that can do multiple jobs is beneficial and productive. 

Another area of difference between union and non-union properties is in the rates and daily pay format. The production industry at large works on a 10-hour day rate format. What this means is that engineers and technicians get paid a day rate for 10 hours of work. After 10 hours, the rates change to overtime and then double overtime. Most unions work on an 8-hour format and then overtime and double overtime. Union rates in some cities are also considerably higher than the market day rate in the industry. If you take these two different approaches, across several people, over multiple days, the difference becomes considerable quite quickly. 

Union exclusives can also make a big difference. The biggest difference being required shadow labor for key personnel that an outside company may provide. This means, if an outside production company provides 5 key operating positions for several days, some unions require there be a union representative for all 5 positions that will be present at the event, but not working. The customer is the one responsible for paying for these shadow positions. Not all unions have the requirement, but some do, and it can affect cost in a big way. 

Cities with more union-heavy venues

If you are a meeting planner that is starting to prepare for upcoming events, you might be wondering if certain cities are more union-heavy. The answer is yes. Big metropolitan cities like Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Washington DC, are going to be more union-heavy. In fact, the two that are the most union-heavy are Chicago and New York. If you are considering either of these cities for an upcoming event, be prepared for it to be held at a union property because almost all of the venues are. If you are considering one of the other cities, we recommend you do some research into both union and nonunion venues in order to compare costs and determine whether the increase is going to bring that much more value to your event. 

Clarity's role in helping meeting planners put on an event at a union property


Clarity has been working at union properties for years, and we know all of the different ins and outs and can be of great assistance to meeting planners going through this process. When it comes to our role in helping meeting planners in a union environment, we partner with you every step of the way, and on the front end, Clarity can help negotiate some of the provisions we talked about earlier (we must get involved BEFORE you sign the contract with a union location), and we can help with the shadowing and overseeing process. 

Clarity is different from other AV companies

One thing that differentiates Clarity from other AV companies is that we want to be there with you every step of the way. We want to be in these discussions with the venue before you finalize any decisions for your event. We want to be involved in budgets and act as an advisor to you when choosing a venue for your live event. When it is time to select a venue, we want to be there to tell you whether it’s a union property or not so you’re more prepared and know what you’re signing up for. 

Meeting planners, if you decide to go with a union property, we want to fight the good fight with you and negotiate for your benefit, as well as make sure you are increasing your budget enough so there are no surprises along the way. What we mean by that is we want to try to help you negotiate down concession costs so that more of your spending is invested in the experience of your event. We respectfully work with the union properties, but at the end of the day, we are your partner, and having your back is our priority. 

If you choose to partner with Clarity, handling negotiations with union properties is a team effort, but our sales team and producers are the two people you are going to work the closest with. Our producers are great at handling the nitty-gritty details of negotiations, so you are in great hands. 

Clarity can help negotiate with union properties

We just talked about how the producers at Clarity are experts with handling negotiations...but just how flexible are unions when it comes to negotiations? There is flexibility with negotiations at union properties, but it’s all about whether or not you have signed the contract or not. As planners, we have your back! Talk to us before signing your hotel contracts so we can provide you with some insight as to the differences in cost for union properties vs. non-union properties and how these choices may affect your event. 

In the past, Clarity has been very successful with negotiating concessions before the contract was signed. If you already have a signed contract, we have seen small amounts of negotiating here and there, but it is a lot more difficult. 

The Clarity team can assist, consult, coach, and offer you our advice and input all before your contract is signed to ensure you are comfortable with the terms of your contract. 

That's how Clarity can Help You Host Your Event at a Union Property

Should a union property be the best choice for your event, Clarity can assist in including language in your contract that could limit some of these costs, and we can help you navigate the best approach to utilize the venue, union, and your own production resources. If you are a meeting planner that is starting to think about an upcoming event and aren’t sure about whether or not a space is a union property or a non-union property, click the link below to talk with one of our expert team members!

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