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Organized Labor
March 2008
Sign Display and Allied Crafts Local Union 510

Sign and display workers rolling out a carpet Sign and display worker hanging a banner from a lift 20 feet high

The Show Must Go On
The cyberworld of online shopping was predicted to be the end of trade shows, but just the opposite happened. In the last few years, trade shows have blossomed into a major Bay Area industry. The larger shows attract between 50,000 to 100,000 visitors. Many of the shows feature theatrical performances with major stars. Over a million people attend trade shows in the Bay Area each year, according to Sign Display and Allied Crafts Local Union 510 Representative Mike Hardeman. “People are hungry for the touch and feel of products, and the company of other people with similar interests,” he explains.
Each week Local 510 members transform huge empty halls at convention centers and hotels into small metropolises with hundreds of booths and flashing lights. The booths feature state-of-the-art technology, including 5-foot video screens, and an array of glitzy gizmos to showcase new products, from electronics to transportation to medicine. And when it’s over, they take it back down and get ready to set up the next show.
“We get to see all the latest things, from cars to medicine,” states Paul Fitzpatrick, a Local 510 steward. That’s one of the fringe benefits. But it’s also a lot of hard work. “Twelve-hour days, rolling out 10 by 100 foot carpets. It really tests your stamina,” states Hardeman.
Local 510 members set up shows all over the larger Bay Area. They travel to Stockton, Fresno, Vallejo, and Monterey. Often they will travel with the shows, setting them up at venues all over the United States and even abroad. It’s not uncommon for them to travel with shows to Switzerland or Japan. The union has about 860 members. They maintain an A, B, and C list. Those entering the trade start as a C, then become a B, and after 500 hours, they can attend a short training program, join the union, and make the A list.
We went on the job site with Local 510 members as they prepared for a comic book show at Moscone Center, run by the Freeman Company.

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Gene Berson Matt Borden Elisa Smith Kenyatta Boddie Qishn (Shawn) Hu
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Bob Banderas Doug Welch Paul Fitzpatrick
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