Labor Unions in America – Teamsters in San Francisco

Our company attended a conference in San Francisco in the last few days. Conferences are expensive. All participants have travel expenses, hotel and food costs, as well as fees to attend the conference itself. The company has to rent booth space, which is this case was $5,000. This gives you a 10 by 10 foot booth. Our booth materials ship in a container about 3 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 1.5 feet deep. It weighs about 100 pounds.

When you get to the show, you also need to sign up for power. There is a company by the name of Freeman that we had to sign up with for power. That’s $150 for the three days.

As it turned out, there were power outlets right behind the booth in the wall. We paid $150 to plug into those.

Then there is the fee to get the booth shipping case from the loading dock to the booth spot. In our case, the loading dock happened to be about 20 feet away from our booth. We paid FedEx to ship the booth from San Diego to San Francisco (another $100 or so each way). But to get the booth from the dock and then back to the dock, we had to pay Freeman another $350 ‘minimum fee.’ We were not allowed to do this ourselves.

All protests went nowhere. The hotel, Freeman, and anyone that would listen cited contracts in the city of San Francisco with the Teamsters Union. Nobody but Freeman’s laborers were allowed to move the booth 20 feet to the dock so FedEx could pick it up.

Here is an email from Lauren Rottman, the friendly Freeman representative:

I understand that you are upset about the material handling charges.  Please note the two forms I have attached for you.  As those documents explain, this is a very strict Union city and exhibitors are not allowed to bring in their own freight unless they can hand carry it in in one trip.  All other freight needs to be handled by the Teamsters… our freight guys.  This was in your service kit that was sent to you before the show.  So, your freight was brought in by our city’s Teamsters. Your freight was shipped in via FedEx weighing 100 lbs.  Since there is a 200lb minimum, you were charged the minimum material handling fee. 

Please understand that these are our rules and we have to abide by not even necessarily because we want to, but because these are the laws in this city (San Francisco).  You may fill out a survey stating your unhappiness about this rule; one will be sent to you via email with your final invoice about a week after the show is closed.  We will need to settle your account before the show closes today at 4:00pm. 

Thank you

I might note that the attached links citing the regulations did not open.

We observed a Freeman worker actually yelling at a hotel porter that had the audacity to help a hotel guest with his luggage to be brought to the booth using a hotel luggage rack: “Get that fucking thing out of here!” The hotel porter, sheepishly, had to withdraw.

I have a problem with a situation where a contract between a city and a union seemingly entitles one unskilled laborer to yell at another unskilled laborer using profanity. I know it is not the contract that entitles the Freeman guy. The Freeman guy simply thinks he has that right and the only way he has to “protect” his job is by using threatening language and gestures.

We end up paying for labor not because this labor is valuable or highly skilled, but because some contract is signed in some smoky room by politicians and union executives.

Clearly, the union had locked down and protected the trade show traffic in San Francisco. It has made sure it gets exorbitant fees. Charging $350 for 5 minutes of work is equivalent to $4,200 an hour. Brain surgeons don’t get paid this kind of hourly rate. Completely unskilled laborers with the people skills and tact of brutes in San Francisco do.

We have no option but to pay up. Freeman has a racket going. I don’t know what they pay to the laborers. Perhaps $35 an hour? Who gets the rest?

2 thoughts on “Labor Unions in America – Teamsters in San Francisco

  1. Ex Teamster

    Some of your facts are wrong, however the end result is still the same.
    The unions have no contract with the cities. The chain of organizations that cost you so much are as follows;
    The city rents the building to the trade show management at a flat charge.
    Trade show management hires a service contractor such as Freeman or GES. Trade show mgmt and Freeman mgmt go golfing and boating while discussing a contract.
    Freeman offers TS mgmt all freight costs and setup costs and so on free for their own exhibits and then lets them in on the fees for the rest of you.
    Freeman tells them of the powerful unions and their hands are tied and such. TS mgmt believes it still thinking if all the money they just saved themselves with the deal they just made.
    Then it rolls down to you.
    In actuality, Freeman is pushing the union off on you and the union workers are ordered to enforce the rules by Freeman. I know that in many venues, the union workers are hard core but the west coast is a bit more laid back. If the union guy does not get you and Freeman sees it, they get upset with the union guy and orders them to go get you. All the while Freeman tries to look as if they are victims too and blames the unions as it is them that are reaping the big payoffs. I believe the Teamsters in SF are making about $25.00/hr which is good money but they aren’t taking the lions share.
    Remember this, your show management can negotiate better deals, especially for the people with limited funds in small booths. They just don’t do it.
    The most frustrating thing is that they make you let them bring in you goods so you leave it with them then head to your booth but not see your stuff for an hour or so.
    I know all of this because I spent 13 years on the docks and saw exactly what was going on. I hated mostly the lack of customer service by both the union guys and Freeman as well.

  2. norberthaupt

    Wow, thanks for taking the time and pointing this out. I can see how my facts may be wrong. Being the stuckee at the very end of that sequence, the links in the chain are not obvious, but the fact that you feel raped, sometimes, is very front and center.

    Our company, as well as many others, are resorting to simple pullup banners that you can sling over your shoulder and carry on an airplane, so there is nothing left to bring into the booth but the laptop and projector. That’s much more economical and you don’t depend on anyone else.

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