Trade Show Labor: Understanding Union Rules and Regulations

Trade shows are bustling events that require skilled labor to set up and dismantle booths, install displays, and handle technical aspects. In many trade show venues, labor is organized by labor unions, which have specific rules and regulations governing the use of union labor. As an exhibitor, understanding these union rules and regulations is essential to ensure a smooth and compliant trade show experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an overview of trade show labor union rules and regulations, offering valuable insights on how exhibitors can navigate and comply with these requirements.

What are Trade Show Labor Unions?

Trade show labor unions are organizations that represent and protect the rights of laborers working in the trade show industry. These unions negotiate labor contracts with event venues and exhibitors to establish rules regarding the use of union labor for setup, dismantle, and other services during trade shows.

Union Jurisdictions and Work Rules

One of the key aspects of trade show labor unions is their jurisdiction over specific tasks and work areas. Each union has its own set of work rules that define which tasks can only be performed by union labor and which tasks exhibitors or their appointed contractors can handle.

Typical union jurisdictions may include:

  • Electrical Work: Unions often have exclusive jurisdiction over electrical work, including the installation of electrical wiring and fixtures within the booth.
  • Rigging: Rigging services, such as hanging signage or truss structures from the ceiling, are usually performed by union labor.
  • Installation of Display Materials: Unions may have jurisdiction over installing certain display elements, such as carpeting, flooring, and large signage.
  • Audio-Visual and Technical Support: Technical services, such as setting up audio-visual equipment or computer systems, may fall under union jurisdiction.

Exhibitor Appointed Contractors (EACs)

Exhibitors have the option to use their own appointed contractors, known as Exhibitor Appointed Contractors (EACs), for certain tasks within their booth space. EACs work under the exhibitor’s direction and are permitted to perform tasks that fall within the exhibitor’s jurisdiction.

However, EACs must comply with specific rules and requirements set by the trade show labor unions and the event venue. These requirements often include providing proof of insurance, adhering to union work rules, and obtaining necessary credentials or badges for their personnel.

Tips for Exhibitor Compliance

To ensure compliance with trade show labor union rules and regulations, exhibitors can take the following steps:

  1. Know the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the specific labor union rules and regulations for the event venue. Review the exhibitor’s manual and any additional documents provided by the event organizer.
  2. Plan Ahead: Plan your trade show setup well in advance and identify tasks that fall under union jurisdiction. Coordinate with the event organizer or labor provider to arrange for union labor as needed.
  3. Communicate with EACs: If you plan to use EACs for specific tasks, communicate with them about the union rules they must follow. Ensure they are aware of the requirements and have the necessary credentials and insurance.
  4. Budget Accordingly: Union labor rates can vary, and additional costs may be involved. Budget for labor expenses and consider the potential impact on your overall trade show budget.
  5. Follow Deadlines: Adhere to any deadlines set by the labor unions or event organizer for submitting labor orders or other required documentation.
  6. Ask Questions: If you have any questions or uncertainties about union rules, don’t hesitate to reach out to the event organizer or labor provider for clarification.


Understanding trade show labor union rules and regulations is crucial for exhibitors to ensure compliance and avoid potential issues during trade show setups. By familiarizing yourself with union jurisdictions, work rules, and the use of EACs, you can plan and execute a successful trade show experience. Clear communication, early planning, and adherence to deadlines are key to navigating trade show labor requirements effectively. With proper preparation and compliance, you can focus on showcasing your products and engaging with attendees, making the most of your trade show participation.

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