The Goodman Theatre of Chicago and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local #2, have reached an agreement, bringing to an end a more than six-week strike that began March 4. Both sides have resolved not to disclose the terms of the pact.
Some 14 employees from the Goodman's scene shop and stage crew organized under IATSE last year. Talks over a new contract had been underway for seven months when negotiations broke down in February; on March 4, union workers began picketing the Goodman Theatre.
At the time of the strike, workers within this small group were being paid $10.50-$13.00, and as high as $15.50 per hour in one case. The staffers were said to want $23 per hour. As of March 16, the union says it as dropped this demand to $22. At the time, the Goodman was willing to pay $17 per hour now and up to $19 per hour over the three-year life of the new contract.
Last month, Goodman executive director Roche Schulfer maintained that its existing wages and wage proposals were fair and in line with similar venues—maybe better. Schulfer said, “We pay more than Steppenwolf and Chicago Shakespeare [comparable Chicago area non-union, nonprofit theatres] and what we’re willing to pay is far more.” One would assume that the new contract safely makes the Goodman the most rewarding non-profit union gig in Chicago.
IATSE's goals seem to be tied to the recent opening of the Goodman's brand new theatre complex in the North Loop Theatre District. Goodman officials claimed the union's wage demands were meant to bring the company in line with the Oriental Palace and Shubert Theatre — commercial houses with seating capacities of 2,300 and 1,700, respectively. The Goodman is a non-profit theatre with 856 seats. In response to this, a union spokesman said “They’re with the Big Boys now. They should have taken into consideration that costs were going to go up when they moved there.” There was some concern in the theatre community that a continued strike might adversely affect the Goodman's upcoming season, which includes two Broadway-bound productions: the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit and a Robert Falls revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night. The agreement would seem to have dispelled such fears.
—By Robert Simonson