The union stagehands that work Broadway shows produced by the Shuberts and Jujamcyn voted at a special meeting Nov. 19 to authorize a potential strike against the League of American Theatres and Producers (League), which has been in contract negotiations with the union since last summer.
The 2,500 members of the New York City local of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Local 1) are currently working without a contract. Source indicate that the union's key concern may be job security. Stagehands Local 1 president, Edward McConway, and the union's business manager for legitimate theatre, James Claffey, were not available for comment at press time.
"We don't negotiate in the press," a League spokesperson told Playbill On Line, "but since there has been a strike authorization, we are issuing a statement."
"We'd like to let theatregoers know there there's no problem," said League president Jed Bernstein in the prepared statement.
One source said that even if Local 1 sought a strike, it would first have to be authorized by Tom Short of the stagehand's mother union, IATSE /AFL CIO. "A strike authorization is a small step towards any sort of job action," Bernstein's statement continued. "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."
Not all Broadway shows would be affected by a Local 1 strike. Only the shows presented by the Shubert Organization and Jujamycyn would be involved. Former Livent productions, Disney and the Nederlanders are on separate contracts with the stagehands.
Those shows that would be affected 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. Several weeks ago, the stagehands reached a contract agreement with the Nederlanders.
The timing of the threatened labor action is significant, particularly as the union states in its own press release that the "holiday season is traditionally Broadway's busiest season." The prepared statement went on to say that "a strike against Broadway, the tourism economic engine of New York could begin on the same day that giant balloons and marching bands parade down Broadway, Thanksgiving Day."
If the union leadership deems a strike necessary, it would not only be calling its own members on the line, but members of sister unions representing wardrobe, hair, make-up and ushers.
-- By Murdoch McBride