With negotiations between the League of American Theatres and Producers (League) and the IATSE Local 1 (Stagehands) continuing into the late afternoon, theatre patrons remain curious whether a strike will disrupt their theatre plans during the holiday season.
As reported earlier, the stagehands are seeking a new contract with the League, specifically with the Shuberts and Jujamcyns. While the union did vote to authorize a strike Nov. 19, such a drastic move would have to be approved first by IATSE national president Thomas Short, who is on hand now at the talks in New York City.
The union had said the League "agreed to meet once more" and that it had Thomas Short come in to see just how stalled the negotiations really were. On the other hand, a reliable source told Playbill On-Line it was Short who actually called for today's last chance meeting to seek a resolution.
Although no one discounts the seriousness of the situation and the legitimacy of the various arguments, a strike, even the threat of one, is costly to both sides in a labor dispute. In some cases, it can even backfire with harsh consequences for the union rank and file.
In a related story uptown, at the New York City Ballet (NYC Ballet), 60 members of Musicians Local 802 have been locked out after pushing their position with ballet management over the use of canned music. Locked out since Sun. Nov. 28, the musicians start the holiday season with only supplemental strike pay to fall back on, a situation eerily reminiscent of the acrimonious NABET strike of 1998-1999. As unpredictable as union stories are, they can have happy endings and a settlement is as likely to be reached as an impasse. At the NYC Ballet there is already some progress, with Local 802 telling Playbill On-Line it has presented the ballet with a "comprehensive attendance program" Nov. 29.
"They are considering it," a union spokesperson said.
By 2:30 PM, talks between Local 802 and ballet management had concluded for the day and were scheduled to resume Nov. 30 at 9 AM.
With regard to the stagehands' negotiation with the Shuberts/Jujamcyns, the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) says Commissioner Timothy Germany is in "frequent touch with both sides."
Federal mediators are typically asked to come into a negotiation only when necessary, and the services stressed it has not been asked to become active with the stagehands negotiation.
"If they don't want us there, we can't shoot our way in," explained FMCS spokesperson Dave Helfert. "Mediation wouldn't happen if one party just sat there and didn't breathe. But if they want out help, we're there."
Talks between IATSE Local 1, the Shubert Organization and Jujamcyn continued as of 5 PM Nov. 29.
The following shows could be affected by a strike of Broadway stagehands. This is a simple summary provided solely for the convenience of theatre patrons: Cats, Chicago, Dame Edna : The Royal Tour, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, Jekyll & Hyde, Kat and the Kings, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Phantom of the Opera, Putting it Together, Kiss Me, Kate, Swing (previews) and Waing in the Wings (starts previews Dec. 3).
-- By Murdoch McBride