Union Stagehands at Philadelphia Theatre Company Are on Strike

By Kenneth Jones
January 17, 2013

Philadelphia Theatre Company's union stagehands — members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 8 — are on strike at the not-for-profit resident theatre company, which is planning to begin performances of Katori Hall's The Mountaintop on Jan. 18. The stagehands walked out Jan. 16, according to both sides.



PTC's managing director Shira Beckerman said in a statement, "Philadelphia Theatre Company is a small non-profit group that is working to meet the financial challenges it faces in a tough economy, just like many non-profit arts organizations in our region. The company's stagehand employees voted in September to become members of IATSE Local 8 which did nothing to change these facts or address the challenges we face. PTC and the union negotiated an interim labor agreement in October. Since the agreement's expiration in late November, members of the PTC management team have been in negotiations with representatives of the union on an ongoing basis.

"PTC is eager to complete negotiations as soon as possible and expects all performances and theatrical events to proceed as scheduled. We remain focused on the goal of working together to ensure the future success of our company."

Beckerman told Playbill.com that union members have been invited back and are welcome individually or as a group while conversations about a contract continue. In the meantime, PTC is seeking to continue its planned production of Hall's two-person drama about Dr. Martin Luther King, using replacement workers if necessary. If there is no resolution, and the performance goes on as planned Jan. 18, audiences and actors will likely pass by a picket line.

No other comparably-sized Equity theatre in Philadelphia, including Arden Theatre Company and the Wilma, has a relationship with the stagehands union, both sides told Playbill.com. The larger Walnut Street Theatre uses union stagehands. PTC performs at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at the corner of Broad and Lombard streets.

As of the afternoon of Jan. 17, talks had not resumed. Frank Keel, a spokesman for Local 8, released this statement to Playbill.com, "The management of the Philadelphia Theatre Company is guilty of hypocrisy in putting on a show about the last days of Dr. Martin Luther King — a man who lived and died for the cause of social justice — at the same time they are threatening the job security of the men and women who make the theatre work. IATSE Local 8 is walking in Dr. King's footsteps by walking the picket line in protest of the Philadelphia Theatre Company's anti-worker policies."

Visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.