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Members of Sign Display Local 510 apply window graphics on the exterior of Moscone Convention Center in February 2020.

With In-Person Events Cancelled for Past Year, Local 510 Has Coped and Now Looks Forward

By Jessica Zimmer, Contributing Writer

Sign Display Local 510 has taken extreme efforts to assist members through the COVID-19 pandemic. Members are now regularly receiving state and federal benefits, updates on changes coming to the trade show and convention industries, and information about volunteering in their communities.

Local 510 business representatives Morgan Worth and Annette Dosier said the majority of members have been out of work for over a year.

“Nearly every single job was canceled over our territory, which stretches from Sacramento to north of San Luis Obispo,” Dosier said. Members of Local 510, which has an hourly banking system for medical, started running out of hours this month.

“We’ve now become familiar with manuals and guides for Social Security, the California Employment Development Department, [state vaccine scheduling system] MyTurn, and Covered California,” Dosier said. “Our effort has helped members enroll for Social Security, unemployment benefits, healthcare programs, and vaccine shots.”

Worth said the union has created a safety net to support many members. More than 30 members retired in 2020.

“Many more stayed on and retained their seniority,” Worth said. “This will help them maintain priority as work returns.” According to Worth, Local 510 currently has 796 members.

Local 510 accomplishes a multitude of tasks related to large events and signage. Members’ work includes trade show, convention, and event installation and dismantling of exhibits, commercial outdoor sign production and installation, and sign painting and pictorial work throughout the Bay Area.

“Right now, we’re waiting on the state to develop guidelines for conventions,” said Worth. “We’re also waiting for the City of San Francisco’s COVID-19 headquarters to vacate the Moscone Center.”

Moscone is currently being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site. West Hall is serving as a temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Before Moscone is regularly used as a convention center again, it will need to be cleaned.

Local 510, whose members install billboards and signs in and around transit stops, is also looking forward to the return of MUNI and BART riders.

“When the riders return, so will the advertisers,” Worth said.

Later this month, Local 510 members will begin meeting again, outside and socially distanced. Worth said Local 510’s contractors have shared there is a pent-up demand for in-person events, which could include wider aisles, plexiglass dividers and partitions, and floor markings for social distancing.

“We’re filtering a great deal of information from the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association [ECSA],” Dosier said. “We’re also learning more by keeping in touch with contractors and industry contacts. We follow all the COVID-19-related state, county, and city guidelines relating to safety protocols for large events. We’re research detectives.”

Between April 2020 and March 2021, Local 510 did not hold meetings for members, but it did create a new website and turn its dispatch line into a message line.

“We journeyed out 24 apprentices in 2020,” said Worth. “We continued to offer training through the pandemic. These were a union history class online and small, socially-distanced in-person trainings on graphics and power tools.”

Dosier offered a sentiment she attributed to Local 510’s former business representative, Owen Murphy: “Sign display work was the first to be canceled, and it’ll be the last to come back.”

Still, she and Worth are planning ahead, citing Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement that the state will reopen completely by mid-June. Dosier said she expects the industry to return to regular routines within two years, with a slow initial start in fall 2021.

“As more people get vaccinated, we look forward to the virus fading into the background,” she said. “That will bring us back to the norm.”

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