Broadway Stagehands Union Sets Date for Strike Authorization Vote

News   Broadway Stagehands Union Sets Date for Strike Authorization Vote Local One, the Broadway stagehands union, announced Oct. 12 that a meeting has been called for Oct. 21 in order to ask its members to "give authorization to the union leadership to take any job action necessary in light of the possibility of the producers implementing new work rules."

The meeting does not imply that a strike will necessarily take place. Local One president James J. Claffey Jr. states that all options will be weighed so that the union may take any action necessary should Broadway producers seek to implement the terms of the proposed contract that was rejected by the union. The meeting is a response to Local One's concerns that rather than locking out the union, Broadway producers may seek to implement the final offer they presented to Local One on Oct. 9.

During the last negotiation Local One refused the League's final offer, countering with its own terms. Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League, stated the counter offer from Local One "made no progress on any of the issues we have identified as crucial to these negotiations." The League added, "Were the League to accept the final offer dictated by Local One, the Local One labor costs for new plays and musicals would rise by 30% for new musicals and 44% for new plays, over the life of the contract."

Claffey's rebuttal stated, "The union addressed nearly every item on the producers' list and offered imaginative solutions that met the producers' requests… What the producers failed to do was recognize our suggestions with exchanges of its own. What they failed to understand is what I said publicly and privately in the last year: Local One is open to exchanges on work rules and other areas, but would not make a concessionary agreement of any kind. Local One will not accept cuts."

Local One represents the 350 to 500 stagehands working on Broadway and a further 2,500 stagehands employed in TV, arenas, scene shops, opera, and music halls in New York City.

In order for Local One to strike, its members must first vote in favor and request permission from I.A.T.S.E. leadership for approval. Wary of a lockout or an implementation of the new contract, the union states it is "unclear" whether this authorization will be necessary. The announcement of the Oct. 21 meeting sets off a ten-day strike authorization process, which I.A.T.S.E.'s constitution states is necessary in order to allow members enough time to consider the implications of a strike. If Local One were to strike, it would be the first in the union's 121-year history.

At the meeting held Oct. 12 at Local One headquarters were leaders of Actor's Equity, American Federation of Musicians Local 802, Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers IATSE Local 18032 Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, Ushers and Projectionists IATSE Local 306, Ticket Sellers & Treasurers Local IATSE 751, Theatrical Wardrobe IATSE Local 764, Make-up and Hair Stylists IATSE Local 798, United Scenic Artists IATSE Local 829, Operating Engineers Local 30, Central Labor Council and the New York State AFL-CIO.

In its Oct. 12 press statement Local One said "an air of solidarity filled the room" during the meeting, "with all of the unions fully aware that if they don't hang together, each may hang separately."

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.

Only the Broadway productions housed within these negotiating theatre umbrellas will be affected by a potential strike or lockout. The houses unaffected 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.

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 could 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.)"