Short Authorizes Strike Action for Broadway Stagehands

News   Short Authorizes Strike Action for Broadway Stagehands Local One, the stagehands union, appears to be one step closer to a strike now that I.A.T.S.E. president Thomas C. Short has given the green light for the union to take such an action.
Stagehands at work.
Stagehands at work. Photo by David Gewirtzman

Local One president James Claffey, Jr. announced that as of 7:30 PM Nov. 8, Short granted strike authorization to the Broadway union, which has been working without a contract since July 31.

Local One is awaiting word from Short as to the time and date of the strike. Union members are being advised to remain in contact with Local One headquarters for information. The New York Post reports that union leaders were discussing Nov. 8 whether to "strike before the weekend or wait until Tuesday [Nov. 13]."

Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, released a statement Nov. 9 at 4:30 PM that said, "This is still a great time to see a Broadway show. If you have tickets, keep your plans and come to the Great White Way. If you would like to see a show this weekend, good seats are available for most performances. While we understand that Local One, the stagehands union, has received strike authorization from I.A.T.S.E (its parent organization), we have not received notice of any proposed strike date. In the event a strike is called, please be assured that all affected ticket holders can receive an exchange or full refund. We remain prepared to resume talks and continue negotiations."

Talks between Local One and the League resumed Nov. 7 after producers began implementing some of the terms of their proposed contract on Oct. 22; that contract had been rejected by the union earlier.

Short's approval is a standard part of the I.A.T.S.E. constitution, which states an I.A.T.S.E. official must be present for at least one of the negotiations prior to the union taking action. Local One members unanimously voted in favor of a strike on Oct. 21 after negotiations initially fell through Oct. 9. Producers and the union had been hashing out issues of work assignments, setting of a production's run crew, load-in costs and labor minimums. In response to the producers' new operating procedures, Claffey had previously encouraged union members to continue their hard work, in order to convince "our co-workers and the public that this Union did all we could for a reasonable period of time before we were pushed and shoved into defending our families and ourselves."

During the negotiations between the League and the union, the Nederlander Organization has been at the table with the Shubert and Jujamcyn camps as a silent observer. The Nederlander Organization has said it will show solidarity with the League of American Theatres and Producers should the union decide to strike for the first time in its 121-year history. Prior to the union's Oct. 21 strike authorization vote, Hershel Waxman, Vice President of Labor Relations of the Nederlander Organization, sent a hand-delivered letter to Local One President James Claffey Jr., a document that was released by the League Oct. 26.

In the letter, which is dated Oct. 19, Waxman says, "Should Local One engage in a strike against the League, it would be in Nederlander's best interest to lock out the Local One bargaining unit so that the entire theatre industry achieves the best possible terms in any new agreement with Local One."

Waxman said that he hoped the strike would not occur, citing the good relations the union and the Nederlander Organization have enjoyed in the past. Waxman concluded his letter stating, "I urge you and your members to accept the League's Final Offer without resorting to an unnecessary work stoppage."

In the event of a strike and subsequent lock out by the Nederlanders, Wicked, Grease, Cyrano, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, The Drowsy Chaperone, Rent, Hairspray and Legally Blonde will join the list of productions to go dark.

Unaffected houses include the Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), the New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins), the Helen Hayes (Xanadu), Circle in the Square (Spelling Bee), as well as Broadway's nonprofit sector, including Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout productions.

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