ATPAM Press Agents & Managers Still Negotiating w/ League; Strike Unlikely

News   ATPAM Press Agents & Managers Still Negotiating w/ League; Strike Unlikely Doesn't there always seem to be a strike looming at Tony time?

Doesn't there always seem to be a strike looming at Tony time?

This year is no exception, as The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM), a labor organization representing press reps and house managers, is in negotiations with the League of American Theatres and Producers.

An ATPAM board member, who did not wish to be quoted, told Playbill On Line the ATPAM membership voted May 31 to authorize a strike, which means the organization's officers can now call a strike if and when they feel it necessary. Of course, that could have made this a key weekend of negotiations, since the Tony Awards happen June 4. If ATPAM -- a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) -- strikes, it's likely other IATSE members -- such as the stagehands union - will honor the picket lines.

That said, ATPAM president Maria Somma significantly downplayed any kind of threatening or negative aspects of the negotiations. "The strike authorization was just a procedural step," she told Playbill On-Line (late afternoon, June 2). "We're still in talks with the League, and they'll be going on next week, and very likely after that. We don't agree on some stuff -- wages, benefits, the usual -- but we're talking and will continue to talk." Somma said she didn't want to get too specific about the issues because, "I'd rather talk to the League representative across the table about these things. Negotiations offer an interesting exchange, and it seems unfair to take it to the press at this point."

ATPAM voted June 23, 1999, to reelect its top three officers: President Maria Somma, Vice President Robert Nolan, and Secretary Treasurer Gordon G. Forbes. All three ran unopposed, and they all started their new three-year terms in mid-June 1999. ATPAM's Board of Governors also held elections, and Douglas Banker was reelected Chairman of the Manager Chapter, while Jim Baldassare was reelected Chairman of the Press Agent Chapter. Press agents handle promotional arrangements for a show, including arranging photo opportunities for the media and coordinating when critics come to review the production. Company managers work for the producers; house managers work for the theatre owner (e.g., the Shuberts, Jujamcyn).

For the first time (starting this past season), ATPAM officers and board members have been allowed to vote for the Tony Awards. Also for the first time, ATPAM is credited alongside other theatrical unions and guilds in all Playbill magazines.

In 1994, ATPAM signed a provisional merger with IATSE, one that became permanent July 1, 1999, with ATPAM officially dubbed "Local 18032 of IATSE."

-- By David Lefkowitz