Broadway Musicians' Contract to Face a Vote Next Week

News   Broadway Musicians' Contract to Face a Vote Next Week The new four-year pact forged between Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and the League of American Theatres and Producers will go up for a ratification vote by union rank and file sometime late next week, a union spokesman confirmed.

The musicians strike, which began Friday March 7 and was supported by the actors and stagehands unions, was settled early in the morning of Tuesday, March 11. An agreement was reached after Mayor Michael Bloomberg reached out to both sides and instigated round-the-clock negotiations beginning 9 PM Monday March 10 at Gracie Mansion.

Broadway musicals, most of which had been dark for four days running, commenced performances again on March 11.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called officials from Local 802 and the League to Gracie Mansion at 9 PM Monday night and effectively shut them in a room with mediator Frank J. Macchiarola until an agreement was reached. Middle ground was located in less than 12 hours. Both sides credited Bloomberg with swiftly solving a conflict which could have dragged on for weeks and severely hurt Broadway.

The main point of the dispute between Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and the League of American Theatres and Producers concerned the question of minimums in Broadway orchestras. The old pact placed the number at 24 to 26 at the twelve largest Broadway musical houses and 3 to 20 at other theatres. The musicians union wanted to set the minimum of players at no less than 24, while producers suggested first 7, then 14, then 15 musicians. At a press conference March 11, it was announced that minimums at the large Broadway theatres will now have set minimums of 18 or 19 players.

The lowered number is a far cry from a complete elimination of the minimums clause, a conclusion the producers had initially sought. Still, though they succeeded in preserving minimums, Local 802 will likely see far fewer of its members employed in Broadway pits in the years to come. Minimums at the affected Broadway theatres are as follows in the new contract:

Broadway, Gershwin, St. James, Marquis, New Amsterdam, Ford Center: 19
Majestic, Palace, Lunt-Fontanne, Imperial, Minskoff, Shubert, Winter Garden: 18
Neil Simon, Martin Beck, Richard Rodgers: 14
Virginia, Broadhurst: 12
Barrymore, Music Box, Plymouth: 9
Brooks Atkinson, O'Neill, Royale: 8
Longacre, Nederlander: 4
Ambassador, Belasco, Booth, Circle in the Square, Cort, Golden, Walter Kerr, Lyceum: 3

Though the contract is for four years, the minimums clause may not be addressed again for 10 years. The new minimums do not affect currently running musicals or shows set to open this season.

There were also changes made to the "Special Situations" clause, which allows producers of shows to petition for a different number of musicians. Previously, the committee that decided these matters was comprised of six people, all music professionals: orchestrators, music directors and the like. The new committee will now be made up of two union representatives, two producer representatives and either one or three neutral persons to be chosen at a later date.

The League's push to remove music copyists from the bargain was resisted by Local 802. The 90 music copyists currently in Local 802 will be covered by the new agreement. Wages for members will rise 2.75 percent for every year of the pact. There were also improvements on issues concerning musicians health and safety, with a committee of experts to be formed to examine the impact of stage smoke and fog.

*

Eighteen Broadway musicals were affected by the strike. The strike cost the city millions of dollars a day in revenue at a time of fragile economics, lingering recession and a severe budget shortfall.

The night the lights went out on Broadway was Friday March 7. At 12:01 AM that day, the American Federation of Musicians' Local 802 called a strike, after weeks of negotiations with the League of American Theatres and Producers failed to produce an agreement.

Producers had intended to bring in so-called virtual orchestras, so that their shows might continue, but when Actors' Equity and Local One of the stagehands union decided to honor the musicians walkout, the move effectively shut down nearly every musical currently playing on Broadway.

The League announced at 7 PM Friday that the affected musicals were canceled for the entire weekend. Monday show were also subsequently canceled. A Times Square suddenly bereft of splashy musical entertainment quickly felt the pain. Restaurants and other local businesses that depend on theatre trade saw a dip in business.

The strike also interrupted rehearsals of three musicals due to open on Broadway this season: Nine, Gypsy and The Look of Love. It did not affect Broadway's plays, or the musical Cabaret, which works under a different contract with Local 802.

The quick resolution of the strike prevented the schedules of aborning shows from being derailed. Had the walkout continued, upcoming musicals would have surely changed or postponed their opening dates. The producer of Urban Cowboy told the New York Times that, had the strike gone on, it was doubtful the new musical would have opened. A long strike also might have pushed back the date of the Tony Award ceremony.