Seeking Better Wages, Stagehands Picket New Goodman Theatre in Chicago

News   Seeking Better Wages, Stagehands Picket New Goodman Theatre in Chicago Union picketing continues for the second week at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where stagehands seek what one union business manager described as a simple struggle for "money and respect."

Union picketing continues for the second week at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where stagehands seek what one union business manager described as a simple struggle for "money and respect."

The relatively small number of workers involved in the strike—just 14 employees—is deceiving: the stagehands are members of the powerful International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), which is in turn affiliated with the sprawling A.F.L.C.I.O.-CWA.

Beginning with matinee performances on Sunday, March 4, union workers hit the bricks and picketed the Goodman Theatre. Their labor action began just a little over two weeks after negotiations broke down between management and labor. Union workers now being paid $10.50-$15.50 per hour are said to want $23 per hour. The Goodman is willing to pay $17 per hour now and up to $19 per hour over the three-year life of the new contract.

No show schedules have been disrupted by the strike action.

In the Chicago Sun Times, reporter Annie Sweeney quoted Goodman executive director Roche Schulfer as saying that the union is "unwilling to consider the world in which we live." In fact, that world has changed dramatically in the past year. The Goodman has recently completed a well-organized and well-publicized project, the construction of two large theatres in downtown Chicago. The completion of Goodman's bricks and mortar project preceded the strike initiative by stagehands from IATSE Local 2.

Union sources said in the Sun Times that "wage rates requested by the union are substantially less than prevailing wages requested by other unionized stagehand employees in the Chicagoland area."

Talks over a new contract had been underway for seven months before the strike was called, the union said.

As reported by the union and highlighted by the Sun Times, "The Goodman is registered with the State of Illinois as a charitable, not-for-profit organization, yet in 1999 it paid its artistic director over $240,000 and its executive director more than $225,000."

These salary issues and any background consideration over Goodman's financial standing notwithstanding, IATSE business manager Robert Ingersol said, "we are worth it and the Goodman can afford it." —By Murdoch McBride