It's Over! Labor Dispute Resolved as Stagehands Strike Ends

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
28 Nov 2007

The marquee of <I>Legally Blonde</I> will light again.
The marquee of Legally Blonde will light again.
Matthew Blank
The strike initiated by Local One, the stagehands union, on Nov. 10 has come to an end. A tenative agreement was reached between the League of American Theatres and Producers and the union Nov. 28, the 19th day of the strike.

Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the League, addressed the press just before 11 PM with a short statement. St. Martin said, "We are pleased to announce that we have a tentative agreement with Local One of IATSE ending the Broadway strike, and we're happy about that. Performances for all shows will begin tomorrow night — once again, that's Thursday, Nov. 29 — and schedules for all productions will be posted on [the League's official website at www.ilovenytheater.com]. The agreement is a good compromise that serves our industry. What is most important is that Broadway's lights will once again be shining brightly with a diversity of productions that will delight all theatregoers during this holiday time. We look forward to celebrating the season and welcoming our talented stagehands and the theatregoing public back to Broadway."

James J. Claffey, the president of Local One, made a very brief statement: "Brothers and sisters of Local One, you've respresented yourselves and your families and your union proud. That's enough said right there." Bruce Cohen, the union's spokesperson, later told NY1, "All I can say is we're glad there's a deal, and everybody should go back to work, and the public should go see a Broadway show."

The union will now have ten days to approve the tentative agreement, although stagehands will return to work immediately. Union spokesperson Cohen explained, "We'll have a ratification vote and answer a lot of questions for our members in the next ten days."

Listen to
Actors from Is He Dead?, Farnsworth Invention, The Seafarer, Jersey Boys and Hairspray discussing returning to work after the strike.



Details of the final agreement have yet to be made public. For months prior to the strike and throughout the strike's duration, producers and the union have been hashing out issues of work assignments, setting of a production's run crew, load-in costs and labor minimums. Increase in wages was the subject of the final day of negotiations which lasted over 10 hours.

All Broadway shows that were open prior to the strike will resume performances Thursday, Nov. 29. The Homecoming, which had not yet begun previews, will announce its start date shortly.

Although the previous meetings between the League and the union had been unsuccessful, there was a great sense of optimism as members headed into the Nov. 28 meeting. Herschel Waxman, the Senior Vice President of the Nederlander Organization who is in charge of Labor Relations, told NY1, "As optimistic as I was the other day, I'm equally as optimistic we'll have it done today. I've been wrong, but I swear to you, I believe we will have a deal finished today." Bruce Cohen, a spokesperson for the union, said, "The tarps are off the field. The sun is shining. We're in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, and as Yogi Berra didn't say, 'It's not over until the fat lady sings.'"

The vast majority of Broadway shows have been closed since the strike began, and several shows have been forced to postpone their official opening nights. The lengthy dispute has also severely affected businesses in the theatre-district area. The City of New York estimates its loss at $2 million per each day of the strike.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nation's leading industry based, not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization, has also been adversely affected by the strike. It is during this time of the year when BC/EFA makes post-curtain call speeches asking for donating to the organization. The six weeks of fundraising leads up to the annual Gypsy of the Year competition, which has been postponed until Dec. 17 and 18.

Playbill.com will provide further information about the resolution of the strike as it is made available.

*

Playbill.com offers a time line tracking the progress and key points of the labor dispute between Local One, the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers that darkened most of Broadway for 19 days.

On July 31, Local One contracts, issued in 2004, expired with the Shubert Organization, Jujamcyn Theaters and the Nederlander Organizations. Local One members continued to report to work without a contract with the League.

Only the Shubert and Jujamcyn camps were permitted to negotiate with Local One. The Nederlander organization, whose contract with Local One also expired, was denied by Local One the permission to bargain collectively with the League in the negotiations. The Nederlander Organization was permitted to sit at the table as a silent observer. The Nederlanders and the union did reach an agreement that said their contract would more or less reflect the same terms agreed upon by Local One and the League.

July 13
Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers meet for the first time to negotiate a new contract in anticipation of the July 31 expiration date.

July 30
Talks resume between both parties.

July 31
The Local One contract with the League of American Theatres and Producers officially expires. Talks continue.

August 2
The League and Local One meet to hammer out the details of a new work agreement. This will be the only meeting between the two parties to take place in August.

September 6-28
Talks between Local One and the League officially reconvene.

Sept. 30
After a month of talks, the League of American Theatres and Producers sets a deadline for its final offer to Local One. In the event talks should collapse, Broadway begins bracing for a possible Oct. 1 lockout of the stagehands union by the League.

Oct. 1
The League states Broadway will not be affected by a lockout of the stagehands union by theatre owners and producers. Further talks are requested with Local One for Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

Oct. 4
Unable to reach an agreement, talks between Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers continue into Oct. 5. Negotiations are scheduled to reconvene following the holiday weekend on Oct. 9.

Oct. 9
At 7 PM the League of American Theatres and Producers makes its final offer to Local One, offering what it describes as "a 16% wage increase over five years; a separate one-time 10% wage increase for the period when shows are loaded in, above and beyond the yearly wage increase; 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," in exchange for flexibility and streamlining of Local One duties, according to League executive director Charlotte St. Martin.

At 10:10 PM, Local One returned with a "best final offer" of its own. "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… Local One is open to exchanges on work rules and other areas, but would not make a concessionary agreement of any kind," Local One president James Claffey Jr. stated in response to the League's "best final offer."

Oct. 10
Negotiations collapse after both sides reject the proposed final offers. St. Martin stated, "In response to our final offer, the Union gave us what they called its final offer, which made no progress on any of the issues we have identified as crucial to these negotiations. In fact, the Union's offer has made the situation worse for all productions, particularly dramatic productions."

The two parties left the table with no further talks scheduled.

Oct. 12
Following an informal meeting of both sides on Oct. 11, the League issued word that there will be no lockout and that shows would go on for the weekend of Oct. 12-14.

Local One president James Claffey Jr. issues word that Local One will convene on Oct. 21 to vote for strike authorization from union members, kicking off a ten-day authorization notice to allow union members to weigh the implications of their actions.

Oct. 16
With talks at a standstill, the League of American Theatres and Producers announced that it will begin implementing the provisions of its final offer. An implementation date of Oct. 23 is set for theatres within the League.

Oct. 17
Local One declines New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's offer to mediate negotiations between the League and the Union. Bloomberg was key in ending the 2003 Broadway musician's strike.

Oct. 18
The Nederlander Organization, which has been a silent observer at the table with the Shubert and Jujamcyn camps, announces that it will not implement the terms of the League's proposed contract within its theatres.

Oct. 19
Herschel Waxman, Senior Vice President of the Nederlander Organization who is in charge of Labor Relations, sends word to Local One president James Claffey, Jr. urging him to accept the League's final offer, stating that should Local One go on strike, it would be in the best interest of the Nederlander Organization to lockout Local One members in solidarity with the League bargaining unit.

Oct. 21
Local One president Claffey declares, "No work in December without a deal." Local One members vote unanimously in favor of strike action against League productions. Union members also vote in favor of allocating $1 million from the union's general fund to help other unions who may be financially affected by the strike. A strike date is not set, but Local One states it will issue notice: "The union will not blind side Broadway theater-goers."

Oct. 23
The League begins implementing terms of its final, rejected offer. The League issues an 11-page summary of its final offer, including withdrawn provisions, and a list of provisions scheduled to take effect. Areas affected include overtime hiring requirements, setting of a production's run crew, meal breaks, premium pay for 7th day or 9th performances, canceled performances, as well as rehearsal, performance, continuity and work calls.

Oct. 24
James Claffey Jr. issues a statement to members of Broadway's stagehands union commending them for working temporarily under the new rules from the League of American Theatres and Producers. He encourages his members to continue their 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."

Oct. 29
League issues word that they will reconvene with Local One on Nov. 7, 8 and 9. I.A.T.S.E. president Thomas C. Short will be in attendance. His presence is a necessary component of the Local One constitution requiring an I.A.T.S.E. official to be present for at least one round of negotiations prior to authorizing strike action.

Nov. 7-8
Claffey reports to union members that little-to-no progress has been made during the ongoing negotiations with the League of American Theatres and Producers. At 7:30 PM on Nov. 8, following the latest offer from the League, I.A.T.S.E. president Thomas C. Short grants strike authorization to members of Local One.

Nov. 10
For the first time in the history of the 121-year-old union, Local One issues official word that Broadway stagehands will go on strike at 10 AM "against all theatres governed under the expired collective bargaining agreements of the Shubert, Jujamcyn and Nederlander organizations" – darkening 27 of the 35 productions on Broadway. The first show affected by the strike is the 11 AM performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas – catching theatregoers and the League off guard.

Other Broadway union members, including actors, musicians, box-office representatives, ushers, wardrobe, hair and make-up personnel honor Local One picket lines. Most Broadway unions release public statements of solidarity with Local One members.

The League of American Theatres and Producers holds a press conference responding to the Broadway stagehands strike. Shubert president Phil Smith, producing director for Jujamcyn Theaters Paul Libin as well as producer and general manager Richard Frankel are among those who joined Charlotte St. Martin for the news conference.

When asked how long she believed the strike will last, St. Martin answered, "As we've never had a strike with Local One, we don't know the answer to that. I have to believe that there will be pressure from the men to come back to work. We are ready to negotiate. We're sending that message as loud and clear as we can send it."

Nov. 11
Local One holds a press conference with Local One president James Claffey Jr.; Bill Dennison, the recording vice-president of Local 802 (the musicians union); and the executive director of Actors' Equity, John Connelly.

Local One, which remained mostly silent during negotiations, offered insight into the bargaining procedures. Claffey said that the union has agreed to some concessions. "We have made compromises. It's just never enough. We've granted 9 or 10 things. They want 30 or 40. They cannot go through our contract after 121 years in one negotiation and just annihilate us."

AEA and Local 802 said it would stand firm with Local One members. Dennison stated, "Unions on Broadway, all of us, are going to stand side by side with the stagehands until this is solved in a way that the members of that proud union are satisfied with, and we will continue to be there with them."

Nov. 12
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's offer to provide a neutral space for negotiations is again respectfully declined by Local One.

Nov. 14
The League cancels performances for the Wednesday matinee and evening Broadway performances due to the strike. Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention postpones its opening night.

The League issues word that talks will renew with Local One Nov. 17, stating that neither party will issue a public statement until that time.

Nov. 15
The Seafarer, Conor McPherson's latest play scheduled to open Nov. 15 at the Booth Theatre, postpones its opening night after League cancels performances through Nov. 18 due to the strike.

Other productions begin to feel the pinch – both Jersey Boys and Wicked, which usually lead in Broadway grosses, were down nearly half-a-million dollars apiece without their lucrative weekend performances. The picture was grimmer for shows already struggling before the work stoppage.

Nov. 17
The League and Local One return to the bargaining table Saturday morning, Nov. 17 at 10 AM at the Westin Hotel. On hand is Robert W. Johnson, a Disney labor relations executive, hoping to expedite talks between the two parties, as well as I.A.T.S.E. president Tom Short.

Nov. 18
After two days of negotiations at the Westin Hotel, talks between Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers again end without a new contract for Broadway stagehands.

"Just before the talks broke off, the producers informed Local One that what Local One had offered was simply not enough. The producers then walked out," according to Claffey.

The League commented, "We are profoundly disappointed to have to tell you that talks broke off tonight, and that no further negotiations are scheduled." The League subsequently canceled performances through Nov. 25 for all Broadway productions affected by the strike.

Nov. 19
Local One orders picket lines to come down in front of the St. James Theatre, home of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This production negotiated its own contract with Local One in August, separate from the League. Grinch general manager Waggett informed Playbill.com, "Our point of view is that our contract is, in fact, still in effect." Claffey thought so, too, informing Grinch producers that the union would allow performances to resume contingent upon approval from Jujamcyn, owner of the St. James Theatre.

At 3 PM Jujamcyn released word that Local One members would not be permitted to return to work at the Grinch until the 26 other theatres darkened by the strike also resumed business.

Nov. 20
The highly anticipated Steppenwolf transfer of August: Osage County misses its opening night due to the Broadway work stoppage, but announces it will extend its engagement through March 9, 2008. The Little Mermaid also announces that it has postponed its opening, originally scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, until further notice.

Producers of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas go to court seeking an injunction requiring Jujamcyn to reopen the St. James theatre for performances.

Local One requests further talks with the League for the coming weekend. "Local One has only asked the League to meet on Sunday, but we've heard no reply," Claffey has commented.

Alan Cohen, spokesperson for the League, responded that discussions were underway to resume talks, but dates had not been confirmed.

The Nederlander Organization, which owns nine of the 27 Broadway theatres that are currently dark, file a $35 million lawsuit against the union. Producers of the seven shows in those darkened theatres have also joined in the suit, which claims the union has been striking the Nederlander houses only to pressure the League of American Theatres and Producers to make a settlement with the union, which makes the strike "an unlawful secondary boycott."

Nov. 21
The producers of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas presented their case against Jujamcyn Theaters in front of State Supreme Court Judge Helen E. Freedman. The producers had filed an injunction Nov. 20 to force Jujamcyn Theaters, who own the St. James, to allow the musical to resume performances.

Judge Freedman grants the injunction filed by The Grinch producers. The musical is scheduled to reopen Friday, Nov. 23 at 11 AM.

Nov. 23
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas reopens at the St. James Theatre, bumping the number of Broadway shows playing to nine.

Nov. 25
Talks resume between the League and the union. Mauritius, Manhattan Theatre Club's production at the Biltmore, concludes its limited run as scheduled, leaving eight theatres still operating.

Nov. 26
At 6:30 AM, after a 20-hour negotiating period, talks are adjourned for 12 hours. Talks resumed at 7 PM.

It is announced that Jujamcyn Theaters will not appeal Judge Freedman's injunction, and The Grinch can play its limited engagement uninterrupted.

Nov. 27
Talks between the union and the League break down early the morning of Nov. 27. Although it is announced that no additional talks are scheduled, that statement is quickly revised. Talks are scheduled to resume Nov. 28 at 10 AM.

Nov. 28
Negotiations between the League and the union resume at 10 AM. By 11 PM that evening, it is announced that a tentative agreeement has been reached between the two sides, and the strike has ended.

Nov. 29
All Broadway shows that had been up and running before the strike began offer performances for the first time in over half a month.