Representatives of IATSE Stagehands Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers (League) are meeting today, beginning at 11:00 AM, to continue critical contract negotiations. At issue are job security and certain compensation issues raised by the union with the Shubert and Jujamcyn theatre organizations.
As reported earlier, not all Broadway shows would be affected by a stagehands strike; only shows presented by the Shubert Organization and Jujamcyn would be involved. Others, such as former Livent productions (Ragtime), Disney (Lion King) and the Nederlanders (Rent, Saturday Night Fever, Beauty & Beast and pre-production on the forthcoming Aida), are all on separate contracts with the stagehands and would not be affected. The Nederlanders recently negotiated their contract with the stagehands, and the Disney and (former) Livent contracts have another year to run, the union said.
A spokesperson for Marie Christine told Playbill On-Line that the show would not be affected. "Lincoln Center Theatre has its own contract with the stagehands," the source said.
Union spokespersons were uncertain whether this evening's annual "Gypsy" benefit at the Marriot Marquis would be affected by a strike, should a labor action be called today.
Last week, union stagehands from Local 1 voted to authorize a potential strike against the League. While spokespersons for the stagehands clarified that last week's vote was only for a strike authorization, rather than an actual strike, the union seems to be posturing for a possible labor action. In a Nov. 29 release, the stagehands said the League had "agreed to meet once more with the Broadway Stagehand's local union."
Today's meeting, which is being held in the offices of the League's attorney, Proskauer Rose at 1585 Broadway, will be attended by the president of the national IATSE, Thomas Short, who is on hand at the request of Local 1 stagehands. Short's presence is significant: His approval is required before an actual strike can be called by the local union representing Broadway stagehands.
"No strike will commence in New York City without consultation with the national's president, Thomas Short," read a union statement. The union paper went on to suggest the stagehands' determination: "So that Mr. Short can witness firsthand the stalled negotiations, Local One has requested his attendance at the Monday session."
The stagehands also indicated that they hoped Jed Bernstein, head of the League, "will attend the bargaining session, which would be his first, and learn the true state of the Broadway negotiations."
The union's Nov. 19 strike authorization vote follows negotiations that have been under way since mid-summer. The 2,150 members of the stagehands local are currently working without a contract at Shubert and Jujamcyn shows, the union said.
While the League confirmed that its representatives were going to be at the Nov. 29 meeting, there was no indication that Jed Bernstein would be there in person.
Last week, the League told Playbill On-Line it didn't negotiate in the press, but in light of the union's vote to authorize a strike it did release the following statement: "We'd like to let theatregoers know there there's no problem," said League president Jed Bernstein. "A strike authorization is a small step towards any sort of job action. We're going to get back to the table and talk on Monday, November 29. Currently there's no threat of a strike on Broadway. Authorizing a strike is nothing more than a negotiating tactic. We've been engaged in negotiations for sometime and we expect to continue to do so and reach an amicable settlement without any disruption to theatregoers."
The shows that could be affected by a stagehands strike are Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Fosse, and Chicago.
A Local 1 spokesperson said this was the only contract being negotiated by the union at this time.
The timing of the threatened labor action is noteworthy, the union said, "because the holiday season is traditionally Broadway's busiest."
If the union leadership deems a strike necessary, it would not only be calling its own members on the line, but also members of sister unions representing wardrobe, hair, make-up and ushers.
-- By Murdoch McBride