League to Implement Portions of Offer Rejected by Union Beginning Oct. 22

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Adam Hetrick
16 Oct 2007

Broadway's League of American Theatres and Producers has upped the ante in the wake of stalled labor talks with Local One, the stagehands union.



On Oct. 9 the League presented its final offer to Local One, which has been working without a contract since July 31. That offer was rejected by the union, while its counter-offer was then rejected by the League.

Following a meeting of League members Oct. 16, the trade organization issued a statement at 7 PM in which executive director Charlotte St. Martin said that "the League today took the next logical and responsible step available to achieve a fair contract by implementing portions of its final offer. The implemented provisions will govern how work will be performed going forward."

A subsequent press release sent at 8 PM stated that the new League provisions would not be implemented before Oct. 22. There was no indication which portions of the organization's final offer would be imposed at that time.

The deadline of Oct. 22 is noteworthy because Local One has called a meeting for Oct. 21 in order to ask its members to "give authorization to the union leadership to take any job action necessary in light of the possibility of the producers implementing new work rules."

The League's Oct. 16 statement continued with St. Martin saying, "Our goal has been and remains to achieve a fair contract that does not require us to hire and pay for workers we don't need who have no work to perform. It is our strong preference to have a contract with Local One, and the implemented portions of the final offer at least give us some of the flexibility we need.

"We are forced to implement because Local One will not pursue meaningful change. They not only rejected our offer; they submitted a counter-offer which would make matters worse by requiring even more nonproductive hiring. During the life of the contract, under these provisions, costs for new musicals would rise by 30% and for plays would rise by 44%. This is indefensible in an industry with a financial failure rate of 80% in which only one in five productions recoups its costs.

"We have moved a long way to address the Union's concerns. But we have not and will not yield on the basic principle: archaic work rules that jeopardize the industry's health must be reformed. Our final offer would make sure that Broadway stagehands continue to be the most highly paid in the theatre industry. But we need, at the same time, to protect and preserve the industry that provides for their own livelihood and the well-being of all the creative people who work on Broadway.

"Our goal remains achieving a fair and balanced contract for the industry, the theatre-going public and the city. We believe, at this critical time, this is the necessary and appropriate step to achieve that goal."

Actors' Equity spokesperson Maria Somma released a statement Oct. 17 in response to the League's latest statement: "Actors' Equity Association is disappointed that the employers' League has chosen to unilaterally impose its final offer on the professional stagehands of Local One/IATSE. We fear that this provocative action will make it more difficult to achieve a timely settlement. We believe this crisis needs to be resolved at the bargaining table. We urge the League to agree to Local One's continued offer to return to that bargaining table."

Local One president James J. Claffey Jr. previously stated why the union rejected the League's final offer: "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."

Local One represents the 350 to 500 stagehands working on Broadway and a further 2,500 stagehands employed in TV, arenas, scene shops, opera, and music halls in New York City.

In order for Local One to strike, its members must first vote in favor and request permission from I.A.T.S.E. leadership for approval. Wary of a lockout or an implementation of the new contract, the union stated it is "unclear" whether this authorization will be necessary.

The union's announcement of the Oct. 21 meeting set off a ten-day strike authorization process, which I.A.T.S.E.'s constitution states is necessary in order to allow members enough time to consider the implications of a strike. If Local One were to strike, it would be the first in the union's 121-year history.

The New York Post reported Oct. 17 that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has offered to mediate a discussion between the League and the Union. His offer, however, was turned down by the union. Union president Claffey told the Post, "I appreciated his offer, but I respectfully declined. The mayor understands and respects our organization's right to bargain." Bloomberg, it should be noted, was instrumental in helping to end the Broadway musicians strike in 2003.

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During the month-long negotiations, the League has been bargaining on behalf of the Jujamcyn and Shubert theatre owners, who account for 22 of the 39 Broadway houses. The Nederlanders, representing 9 Broadway theatres, are under a separate contract with Local One and are at the table as observers.

Only the Broadway productions housed within these negotiating theatre umbrellas will be affected by a potential strike or lockout. The houses unaffected include the Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), the New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins), as well as Broadway's nonprofit sector, including Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout productions.

The two parties have been unable to come to agreement on points of flexibility within designated work assignments, as well as in the reduction of labor and cost for the load-in process of scenery for a new production.

Both the League and Local One claim substantial reserves ($20 million from the League and $4 million from Local One), which they hope will ease some of the financial losses, were a lockout or strike to occur. In addition, Local One could relocate some of its members to other venues in television and various venues throughout the metropolitan area, citing "Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, City Center, hotels trade shows, and all of Lincoln Center (there are as many Local One jobs at Lincoln Center alone as there are on Broadway.)"