Broadway Producers and Stagehands Union Call Oct. 11 Meeting

News   Broadway Producers and Stagehands Union Call Oct. 11 Meeting The League of American Theatres and Producers and Local One, the Broadway stagehands union, are currently in talks regarding rejected offers from both sides of the bargaining table that were made on Oct. 9.

The Oct. 11 talks, currently underway, are not negotiations, according to a representative for the League of American Theatres and Producers. However, professionals from both Local One and the League are present.

The stagehands union, which has been working without a contract since July, 31, has been in discussions with Broadway producers and theatre owners for a month, attempting to come to agreeable terms for a new contract.

During the month-long negotiations, the League has been bargaining on behalf of the Jujamcyn and Shubert theatre owners, who account for 22 of the 39 Broadway houses. The Nederlanders, representing 9 Broadway theatres, are under a separate contract with Local One and are at the table as observers. The houses unaffected by a potential lockout include the Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), the New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins), as well as Broadway's nonprofit sector, including Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout productions.

The two parties have been unable to come to agreement on points of flexibility within designated work assignments, as well as in the reduction of labor and cost for the load-in process of scenery for a new production.

With the exception of the New Amsterdam Theatre, all of the commercial producers and theatres on Broadway are non-public corporations who do not make their profits and losses public. Last year, the League said box-office grosses were approximately $939 million dollars and reported losses of nearly $96 million for shows like The Pirate Queen and High Fidelity. The League maintains that a record-breaking year doesn't necessarily mean record-breaking profits for Broadway, with relatively few shows currently returning their initial investments; in fact, the League says the financial failure rate is 80 percent. Local One stands its ground, noting that lucrative income from licensing rights, secondary rights, film rights, merchandise sales and producers' real profits aren't made public.

If any sort of Broadway work stoppage were to occur within the immediate future, it would most likely come as a result of a lockout by the League. The lockout would preempt a strike by the stagehands union, which has scheduled its first meeting for Saturday, Oct. 13 at the midtown Sheraton Hotel. Local One must first vote to take collective action and then submit a request to the international I.A.T.S.E. leadership in order to strike.

According to statements made by Local One president James J. Claffey Jr., the objective of the Local One meeting will be "a discussion of the implementation of our plans to defend ourselves in the event of a lockout. . . Local One has never promoted a labor dispute in this negotiation but will never be unprepared or unwilling to fight for them or ourselves now or in the future for the protection of us all."

However, in the event of a lockout, Local One states its members should immediately report to the union office in order to receive picket duty materials.

Whether other Broadway unions will stand-up in solidarity with the stagehands union remains to be seen. With the musician's strike in 2003, both Actor's Equity and Local One refused to cross picket lines. However, in the event of a lockout by the League, a representative for Actor's Equity stated, "Equity is instructing its members to report to their shows and sign in, demonstrating that we are ready and willing to work."

Both the League and Local One claim substantial reserves ($20 million from the League and $4 million from Local One), which they hope will ease some of the financial losses, were a lockout or strike to occur. In addition, Local One intends to relocate some of its members to other venues in television and various venues throughout the metropolitan area, citing "Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, City Center, hotels trade shows, and all of Lincoln Center (there are as many Local One jobs at Lincoln Center alone as there are on Broadway.)"

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