League of American Theatres and Producers Makes Offer to Local One

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and Robert Simonson
09 Oct 2007

The League of American Theatres and Producers presented Local One, the stagehands union, with a final offer Oct. 9, according to a press statement released by the League.



The offer comes after a month of negotiations between the League and the Union, which has been without a contract since July 31.

Past reports have identified the "load in" as the main sticking point in the talks. The load in refers to the period when the sets, costumes and equipment for a new show are loaded into a Broadway theatre. The process takes a few weeks, and requires by contract what producers consider a large number of stagehands working for a set number of hours. Both parties have accused the other side of greed, the producers demanding that stagehands only get paid for actual work, the stagehands pointing out Broadway's recent record-breaking profits.

In a statement Charlotte St. Martin, the League's executive director, said, "The League seeks a contract that requires that we only pay for work we actually need and is actually performed. The League's purpose is to modernize a contract that is unique in the extent to which it requires us to employ people who have no work to perform while they are paid.

"In exchange, the League's final offer includes a 16% wage increase over five years; a separate 10% wage increase for the period when shows are loaded in; an additional increase for the lowest paid stagehands; a new sick pay provision; and more than a dozen other contract improvements sought by the Union. The offer insures that Broadway stagehands will continue to be the most highly paid in the theatre world. It is a compromise that preserves many contract provisions Local One sought to protect, but at the same time liberalizes some archaic work rules so that they begin to reflect those present in most modern workplaces."

"In response," St. Martin continues, "the Union has offered only minimal changes for load-ins and virtually no changes for running shows. With only one in five shows making a profit, this simply is not acceptable.

"We hope the Union addresses our final proposal seriously, rather than create a confrontation that will be damaging for all of us."

No further bargaining sessions are currently scheduled, although the League statement says, "We remain willing to meet if Local One is prepared to engage in a meaningful discussion of our final offer. The burden is now on the Union."

The stagehands, according to a statement released by Local One Oct. 9, are currently preparing to offer their "last best offer. . . to prevent any dimming to the lights on what was to have been the Great White Way's first billion dollar season."

James J. Claffey, Jr., president of Local One of the International Alliance of Stage Employees, said in the statement, "The union addressed nearly every item on the producers' list and offered imaginative solutions that met the producers' requests. What the producers failed to do was recognize our suggestions with exchanges of its own. What they failed to understand is what I said publicly and privately in the last year: Local One is open to exchanges on work rules and other areas, but would not make a concessionary agreement of any kind. Local One will not accept cuts."

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According to a recent article in Variety, the stagehands have a contingency plan in place in which Broadway workers would find union work in film or TV should there be a lockout. The League, meanwhile, has a "mutual assistance fund" of $15 million to $20 million in reserve to fight its fight.

The League is negotiating on behalf of Jujamcyn Theaters and the Shubert Organization, who own 22 of Broadway's 39 theatres. The Nederlanders, who own nine Broadway houses, are also at the negotiating table as observers.

Broadway nonprofits such as Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout Theatre Company operate under separate union contracts and would not be affected by a strike. The Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein) and Disney's New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins) will also be unaffected by a lockout or strike.