League Begins Implementing Terms of Rejected Stagehands Contract

News   League Begins Implementing Terms of Rejected Stagehands Contract Following the Oct. 21 announcement that Local One, the Broadway stagehands union, had authorized its leaders to implement a strike should one be necessary, the League of American Theatres and Producers issued an 11-page document outlining the terms of their proposed contract, portions of which they began implementing Oct. 22.

The union, in an Oct. 21 press statement, said its members will continue to work should the producers start implementing the new rules. However, come holiday time, that will change. James J. Claffey, Jr., the president of the union, told his members, "No work in December without a deal."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has offered to mediate negotiations between the two sides, said Oct. 22 that he believes that for "the next month or so, there is no danger of a work stoppage or lockout on Broadway," according to the Associated Press. "The city has a big interest in keeping Broadway going. It's part of our economy, part of our culture. . . . On the other hand, [they are] private employers and [a] private union, and they have a right to negotiate without government dictating a settlement, which would clearly be wrong. We have offered to provide them with facilities and/or somebody that can keep them talking. ... And if they want to take advantage of it, they both certainly have my number 24 hours a day."

The Union, which has been working without a contract since July 31, and the League 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.

The new rules that the League has begun enforcing follow.

Setting the Running Crew
Stagehand crew size and job assignments were previously frozen on the opening night of a Broadway show. The League claims this does not allow enough time to "routine stagehand work and determine appropriate staffing levels." The crew size and job assignments will now be frozen six weeks after opening night. (The Union rejected this proposal.) Electrician Duties
In some instances up to three electricians have operated the board that controls light, projection and sound cues — a job that can be handled by one electrician. The new rule says that "three separate stagehands are not required" to operate such a board. (Local One tentatively agreed to codify this practice.)

Premium Pay for a 7th Day or 9th Performance
Stagehands who work a 7th day or a 9th performance (for example, a Monday performance for a show that regularly plays a Tuesday-Sunday schedule) are paid time-and-a-half. Previously, even those stagehands who had not worked all six days or eight performances were paid time-and-a-half for this extra performance. The League and the Union agreed to a proposed exchange whereby the League would not be required to pay time-and-a-half to those who had not worked the full week; however, the League agreed to pay time-and-a-half for all work "performed on any non-performance day where a production performs only five days per week (Wednesday through Saturday)."

Overtime Hiring Requirements
Previously, if only a few stagehands were required to work overtime, Broadway producers were required to pay overtime to all of the stagehands that had been called that day. Producers will now pay overtime only to the stagehands required to work past a given call period. (The Union rejected this proposal.)

Meal Periods
Meal periods, the previous contract stated, must take place on the hour at 12-1 PM or 1-2 PM, and for evenings at 5-6 PM or 6-7 PM. During many load-in and technical rehearsal days, management was left a choice between "stopping and restarting work for an entire department on the hour or paying everyone a penalty of a time-and-a-half hour." The League will now implement meal time flexibility as long as a break is given within 3 to 5 hours of a stagehand's start time. The new rule would also allow a 30-minute break if a meal is provided for the crew. (Local One has rejected this offer.)

Rehearsals and Work Calls
Currently stagehands called in for a four-hour minimum call can only perform work specific to that type of call. For example, a crew member called in for a rehearsal call cannot be required to do maintenance work — fixing lights or maintaining scenery. Such work would require an additional work call. The League states that they will now require that stagehands perform any work necessary, within departmental lines, on a production while they are being paid, regardless of the type of call. (Local One has rejected this offer.)

Performance Calls
During the performance of a show, there are strict rules regarding what can be required of a crew member. The Union has agreed to allow "work on equipment and related items for promotion and publicity." The League also proposed that stagehands should be permitted to clean up the set, the show's equipment and repair any problems that occurred during the performance. Should the work require more time than the actual running time of the show, crew members would be paid in one-hour increments. Local One agreed to a two-hour minimum call solely to permit clean up for safety reasons.

Continuity Calls
In the previous Local One contract, stagehands may be called one hour prior to a performance (solely for work related to that performance), or for one hour after the performance, but never both, unless producers schedule an additional four-hour call. Producers now intend to schedule and pay for work up to three hours around any given performance, limited to two hours prior and one hour after. This does not include clean up, which may require two hours. The previous union contract also said that if a show ending at 10:25 PM necessitates additional work, the call-time rolls back to 10 PM, requiring producers to pay for an additional hour's work. And, if more time is needed, the call becomes a four-hour call. The League has eliminated this rule, which Local One rejected.

Canceled Performances
Currently, when a scheduled performance of a show is canceled and replaced by a rehearsal or a work call, stagehands are required to be paid for both the canceled performance and the rehearsal/work call. The League will now not pay stagehands twice for the same hours. (The Union has rejected this proposal.)

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The Nederlander Organization, a major Broadway theatre owner and producer, has distanced itself from measures set to be imposed by producers on Oct. 22.

The Nederlanders, who have been observers in the negotiations between Local One (the stagehands union) and the League of American Theatres and Producers, have announced they will not be implementing portions of the League's final contract offer that was rejected Oct. 9 by the union.

During the lengthy 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 nine Broadway theatres, are under a separate, also-expired contract with Local One.

On Oct. 16 the League had announced that beginning Oct. 22 they would begin enforcing "portions of its final offer [to the union]. The implemented provisions will govern how work will be performed going forward." The deadline of Oct. 22 is especially noteworthy because Local One has called a meeting 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 news about the Nederlanders — who operate the Brooks Atkinson, Gershwin, Lunt-Fontanne, Marquis, Minskoff, Nederlander, Neil Simon, Palace and Richard Rodgers theatres — was announced by Local One Oct. 18. In its press statement, the union said, "Herschel Waxman, Vice President of Labor Relations of the Nederlander Organization, Broadway's second largest theatre chain, today (October 18) informed James J. Claffey, Jr., President of the 121-year-old union that has never struck Broadway, that the Nederlander Organization will not be implementing new work rules on Monday. Mr. Waxman has been an observer in the talks between the union and the league because the Nederlander Organization has a [separate] contract with Local One."

In the same statement, union president Claffey, Jr. added, "Local One has always had a warm relationship with the Nederlander Organization, the Nederlander family and Mr. Waxman. The respect they have for their employees is returned a thousand fold from the stagehands they employ."

A press release from the League was subsequently issued Oct. 18 at 7 PM. Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League, said, "In the wake of the press release from Local One and the statement by Mr. Claffey, we have been authorized by the Nederlander Organization to state that they have reviewed and are strongly supportive of each of the League's proposals as they seek to make necessary changes for this business. The Nederlander Organization intends to seek the same objectives in its own negotiations with Local One.

"The Nederlander Organization has their own agreement with Local One, and therefore is not represented by the League in these negotiations. Before negotiations commenced, The Nederlander Organization requested that Local One negotiate with them and the League simultaneously as coordinated bargaining partners, but Local One rejected that request. Although the League has reached an impasse with Local One, Nederlander is not at an impasse. As a result, the Nederlander Organization cannot legally implement these terms at this time. Regardless, they are fully supportive of the League's effort and will remain so until a resolution is found."

In addition to the theatres owned by the Nederlanders, those unaffected by the current negotiations include the New Amsterdam, the Hilton, Circle-in-the-Square, the Biltmore, the Helen Hayes, the American Airlines and Studio 54. Each of those theatres, Local One says, has a separate contract with the union.

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A previous statement from the League discussed why the organization felt it necessary to begin imposing provisions of the final offer that was offered to the union, which has been working without a contract since July 31. In that statement, St. Martin, said, "We are forced to implement because Local One will not pursue meaningful change. They not only rejected our offer; they submitted a counter-offer which would make matters worse by requiring even more nonproductive hiring. During the life of the contract, under these provisions, costs for new musicals would rise by 30% and for plays would rise by 44%. This is indefensible in an industry with a financial failure rate of 80% in which only one in five productions recoups its costs.

"We have moved a long way to address the Union's concerns. But we have not and will not yield on the basic principle: archaic work rules that jeopardize the industry's health must be reformed. Our final offer would make sure that Broadway stagehands continue to be the most highly paid in the theatre industry. But we need, at the same time, to protect and preserve the industry that provides for their own livelihood and the well-being of all the creative people who work on Broadway.

"Our goal remains achieving a fair and balanced contract for the industry, the theatre-going public and the city. We believe, at this critical time, this is the necessary and appropriate step to achieve that goal."

Actors' Equity spokesperson Maria Somma released a statement Oct. 17 in response to the League's latest statement: "Actors' Equity Association is disappointed that the employers' League has chosen to unilaterally impose its final offer on the professional stagehands of Local One/IATSE. We fear that this provocative action will make it more difficult to achieve a timely settlement. We believe this crisis needs to be resolved at the bargaining table. We urge the League to agree to Local One's continued offer to return to that bargaining table."

Local One president James J. Claffey Jr. previously stated why the union rejected the League's final offer: "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 stated it is "unclear" whether this authorization will be necessary.

The announcement of the Oct. 21 meeting set 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.

The New York Post reported Oct. 17 that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has offered to mediate a discussion between the League and the Union. His offer, however, was turned down by the union. Union president Claffey told the Post, "I appreciated his offer, but I respectfully declined. The mayor understands and respects our organization's right to bargain." Bloomberg, it should be noted, was instrumental in helping to end the Broadway musicians strike in 2003.

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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.)"

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