Local One, the Broadway stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers have been trying to hammer out a new working contract since last summer; their most recent pact expired at the end of July. But no agreement has been forthcoming and tensions are rising, according to reports in Variety and Crain's.
The League recently made it clear that it would not negotiate beyond the end of September, and the trade organization is expected to make its final offer by this weekend, or Oct. 1, when the League has scheduled a meeting with Local One. If Local One rejects the offer, a lockout of the union's members is a possibility. A lockout would allow the League, and not the union, to control the timing of a work stoppage.
Past reports have identified the "load in" as the main sticking point in the talks. The load in refers to the period when the sets, costumes and equipment for a new show are loaded into a Broadway theatre. The process takes a few weeks, and requires by contract a large number of stagehands working for a set number of hours. It is therefore quite expensive, and producers wish to curtail costs. Both parties have accused the other side of greed, the producers demanding that stagehands only get paid for actual work, the stagehands pointing out Broadway's recent record-breaking profits.
According to Variety, the stagehands have a contingency plan in place in which Broadway workers would find union work in film or TV should there be a lockout. The League, meanwhile, has a "mutual assistance fund" of $15 million to $20 million in reserve to fight its fight.
Broadway nonprofits such as Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout Theatre Company operate under separate union contracts and would not be affected by a strike.