A Nonny Moose (clandestiny) wrote,
A Nonny Moose
clandestiny

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My Comments on the Local One Strike: Day 3

I think it's great that Local 1 finally had the balls to strike for their first time since their inception over 100 years ago. I think the producers of the American League of Theatres should stop being stuckup. I also think that Local 1 should stop being greedy. The producers don't want to pay for stagehands that they feel are not needed. Producers aren't stagehands. They don't know who is needed and who isn't. Hell, they even hire more ushers than are needed! They just don't want to lose money. The Local One people want a raise so they can keep their homes. They should learn to stop living beyond their means. They are already one of the highest paid people in show business. They make a lot more money than I do, and I keep my apt with the money I make. The only good case they have is that ticket prices are going up, but the stagehands aren't seeing the profit, only the producers. That is a fair statement. The ushers aren't seeing the profit either. I'm sure this thing will end soon, but if it doesn't, I have work next week for 5 days, at $18/hour, and most of the days are about 10 hour days. Way more money than I would make ushering. Yep. Alles gut hier.

The Strike articles via Playbill News, reprinted here:



DAY 1:

Most of Broadway Goes Dark Nov. 10 as Stagehands Begin Strike
By Andrew Gans
and Adam Hetrick
10 Nov 2007



Outside the Broadhurst Theatre, home of Les Misérables, which will be dark until further notice.

photo by Andrew Ku

After months of negotiations between Local One, the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers, the union announced Nov. 10 that its members will go on strike. The strike is effective immediately.

For months 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. Local One members have been working on Broadway without a contract since July 31.

The union and the League reconvened earlier this week, returning to the negotiating table for the first time in several weeks. Thomas C. Short, the president of I.A.T.S.E. — Local One's parent union — attended the Nov. 7 and 8 meetings, which proved unfruitful. Following the meetings, Short granted final strike authorization to the union.

The first show affected by the strike was the 11 AM performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Patrick Page, who stars in the title role of the limited Grinch engagement, told Playbill.com, "I'm heartbroken by the faces of all these kids. . . I've just gone around to give them a hug, maybe sing a little bit of a song for them, and make them feel a little better [about the show being canceled]." When asked about his opinion of the strike, Page said, "My only opinion is that these guys are the backbone of Broadway. I've worked with some of these guys on four or five Broadway shows, and they are amazing craftsmsen and workers, and I have absolutely no idea what goes on in those contract negotiations back and forth, but I do know that Actors' Equity Association supports Local One 100 percent, and I'm a member of [Equity]."

Most Broadway productions are affected by the strike; that is, the shows will not go on for August: Osage County, Avenue Q, A Bronx Tale, Chicago, A Chorus Line, The Color Purple, Curtains, Cyrano de Bergerac, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Drowsy Chaperone, Duran Duran, The Farnsworth Invention, Grease, Hairspray, Is He Dead?, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Spamalot, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer, Spring Awakening, and Wicked.

The only Broadway productions still running are Xanadu, The Ritz, Mauritius, Cymbeline, Pygmalion, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Young Frankenstein and Mary Poppins. These productions are either presented by Broadway's nonprofit sector or are housed in theatres whose contracts with Local One are separate.

The Broadway shows that are up and running will more than likely benefit from the lack of options. In fact, Xanadu sold out its matinee and evening performances Nov. 10, and only standing room was available for Spelling Bee as of late afternoon. Off-Broadway shows are also seeing more customers. Three Mo' Tenors was completely sold out for its Saturday matinee, and a ticket seller at the TKTS booth said that although there are less people in line than normal, Off-Broadway shows are selling better than normal.

Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the League, posted this statement on the League's official website Nov. 10: "Local One has darkened most of Broadway. They have chosen to strike — without notifying us, rather than to continue negotiating. It is a sad day for Broadway, but we must remain committed to achieving a fair contract. Our goal is simple: To pay for workers we need and for work that is actually performed. Stagehands are highly skilled and highly paid. They are — and will remain — the highest paid stagehands in the theatrical world. We deplore the strike and the harm it does to the City, the industry, and the theatregoing public. Indeed, to all talented people who make Broadway the top tourist attraction in New York. A strike will have an economic impact of $17 million per day in direct and indirect costs. This could have been avoided had the union's leadership chosen to act responsibly at the bargaining table. We extend our sympathy for the inconvenience caused to the theatregoing public, and assure everyone who has purchased tickets that they will get an exchange or refund."

Although the union has not issued an official statement, picketers have been handing out flyers in front of several Broadway theatres. The flyer states, in part, "We truly regret that there is no show. . . Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now. Cuts in our jobs and wages will never result in a cut in ticket prices to benefit the public, but only an increase in the profits for producers. Unlike the producers, we are not fighting for our second or third homes: we are fighting to keep the one that we have."

Actors' Equity released a statement Nov. 10 at 11 AM ET in support of the union. In its statement, spokesperson Maria Somma said, "Actors' Equity Association strongly supports Local One/IATSE in their efforts to reach a fair and equitable contract. The responsibility for the shutdown of Broadway rests squarely with the League of American Theaters and Producers. The Equity Council, per the Union’s Broadway contract language, endorses and supports the strike, which has been sanctioned by Local One’s IATSE International President, and directs its members to honor the picket line. The men and women of Local One/IATSE deserve fair wages and working conditions and, most importantly, the respect of everyone who is part of the theatrical community."

It is unclear at this time how long the stagehands strike will last. Broadway was last darkened by a musicians strike in 2003, which ended after four days.

Broadway Producers Respond to Local One Strike
By Andrew Gans
10 Nov 2007



Paul Libin, producing director for Jujamcyn Theaters.

photo by Aubrey Reuben

Several Broadway producers joined Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, for a press conference Nov. 10 that was televised locally on NY1.

The producers spoke about their recent negotiations with Local One, the stagehands union, and the strike the union began earlier in the day. The producers said that negotiations between the two sides ended the evening of Nov. 8. "We were willing and able and anxious to negotiate on Friday," said St. Martin, "and [the union] responded by not showing up and not giving us the opportunity to do [so]."

Paul Libin, producing director for Jujamcyn Theaters, said the producers received no verbal or written notification from the union that the strike would commence Nov. 10. "The men came in to work at the St. James Theatre for their work call to set up for the 11 o'clock performance [of How the Grinch Stole Christmas], and at 10 o'clock in the morning, they walked out. No one told us they were going to do that until they did that."

Richard Frankel, a producer and general manager currently represented on Broadway by Young Frankenstein, addressed the issue of employing more union workers than the producers consider necessary, a practice that has been central to the contract negotiations. "There are several ways that the featherbedding manifests itself. It starts with the load-in of the show . . . We cannot hire the number of men we need, we have to hire the number of men [the Union tells] us to hire . . . The second thing is that men get paid exorbitant amounts of money for doing small pieces of work. The guy who mops the stage every day in the theatre, which takes about ten minutes, gets paid an extra $500 a week for doing that, even though he's doing it while he's on the clock and getting paid his regular wages."

Frankel added, "We have offered [the union] a three-and-a-half percent increase per year for five years, compounded, in exchange for reducing some of the most egregious practices, and they have refused to agree to any of them. It's not that we're not willing to pay them or we're not willing to give them substantial raises — we are — we just need some relief from these practices."

Shubert Organization president Phil Smith said that producers "want the right to be able to assign the employees to their work and reassign them when there is no work. We're not looking to fire them or get rid of them. We want to reassign them. The flyman is an easy example because if there's no work for them on the fly floor, as we've all said, they'll be reassigned something on the stage deck."

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."

Although the union has not issued an official statement, picketers have been handing out flyers in front of several Broadway theatres. The flyer states, in part, "We truly regret that there is no show. . . Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now. Cuts in our jobs and wages will never result in a cut in ticket prices to benefit the public, but only an increase in the profits for producers. Unlike the producers, we are not fighting for our second or third homes: we are fighting to keep the one that we have."

DAY 2:

Day Two: The Strike, But Not the Shows, Go On
By Andrew Gans
11 Nov 2007



Stagehands picket outside the Winter Garden Theatre, home of Mamma Mia!, which will be dark until further notice.

photo by Andrew Ku

Most of Broadway went dark Nov. 10 when after months of negotiations with The League of American Theatres and Producers, Local One, the stagehands union, went on strike, shutting down nearly 30 Broadway productions. The strike — the first in the union's 121-year history — continues Nov. 11 with no clear indication when it might end.

Theatregoers, some of whom had purchased tickets months in advance and had not heard about the strike, arrived at theatres on Saturday to be greeted by picket lines and union members handing out flyers explaining why they were striking.

The strike even caught producers off guard, leaving little or no time to alert theatregoers that most Broadway productions were closed. At a Nov. 10 press conference Paul Libin, producing director for Jujamcyn Theaters, said the producers received no verbal or written notification from the union about the strike: "The men came in to work at the St. James Theatre for their work call to set up for the 11 o'clock performance [of How the Grinch Stole Christmas], and at 10 o'clock in the morning, they walked out. No one told us they were going to do that until they did that."

Box offices were also closed for the shows that went dark: the box-office personnel, also union employees, honored the Local One picket lines.

The little bit of good news seems to be that those Broadway shows that are open for business are benefiting from the lack of options. In fact, Xanadu sold out its matinee and evening performances Nov. 10, and only standing room was available for Spelling Bee's 8 PM performance. Off-Broadway shows are also seeing more customers. Three Mo' Tenors was completely sold out for its Saturday matinee, and a ticket seller at the TKTS booth said that although there are less people in line than normal, Off-Broadway shows are selling better than normal.

The question remains: When will all of Broadway be up and running? At the aforementioned press conference, Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, addressed that very question. "As we've never had a strike with Local One," St. Martin said, "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."

Hershel Waxman, Vice President of Labor Relations of the Nederlander Organization, also attended the Nov. 10 press conference held by the League. Waxman stated, "We respect the men and women who work for us as stagehands. They do an incredible job for us. We don't belittle anything they do. My disappointment — and I'm speaking for myself — is the lack of leadership of this union. It's the first time in the history of our business that we couldn't come to a deal."

For months, 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. Local One members have been working on Broadway without a contract since July 31.

The union and the League reconvened Nov. 7, returning to the negotiating table for the first time in several weeks. Thomas C. Short, the president of I.A.T.S.E. — Local One's parent union — attended the Nov. 7 and 8 meetings, which proved unfruitful. Following the meetings, Short granted final strike authorization to the union.

The first show affected by the strike was the 11 AM performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Nov. 10. Patrick Page, who stars in the title role of the limited Grinch engagement, told Playbill.com, "I'm heartbroken by the faces of all these kids. . . I've just gone around to give them a hug, maybe sing a little bit of a song for them, and make them feel a little better [about the show being canceled]." When asked about his opinion of the strike, Page said, "My only opinion is that these guys are the backbone of Broadway. I've worked with some of these guys on four or five Broadway shows, and they are amazing craftsmsen and workers, and I have absolutely no idea what goes on in those contract negotiations back and forth, but I do know that Actors' Equity Association supports Local One 100 percent, and I'm a member of [Equity]."

Most Broadway productions are affected by the strike; that is, the shows will not go on until further notice for August: Osage County, Avenue Q, A Bronx Tale, Chicago, A Chorus Line, The Color Purple, Curtains, Cyrano de Bergerac, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Drowsy Chaperone, Duran Duran, The Farnsworth Invention, Grease, Hairspray, Is He Dead?, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Spamalot, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer, Spring Awakening, and Wicked.

The only Broadway productions still running are Xanadu, The Ritz, Mauritius, Cymbeline, Pygmalion, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Young Frankenstein and Mary Poppins. These productions are either presented by Broadway's nonprofit sector or are housed in theatres whose contracts with Local One are separate.

St. Martin posted this statement on the League's official website Nov. 10: "Local One has darkened most of Broadway. They have chosen to strike — without notifying us, rather than to continue negotiating. It is a sad day for Broadway, but we must remain committed to achieving a fair contract. Our goal is simple: To pay for workers we need and for work that is actually performed. Stagehands are highly skilled and highly paid. They are — and will remain — the highest paid stagehands in the theatrical world. We deplore the strike and the harm it does to the City, the industry, and the theatregoing public. Indeed, to all talented people who make Broadway the top tourist attraction in New York. A strike will have an economic impact of $17 million per day in direct and indirect costs. This could have been avoided had the union's leadership chosen to act responsibly at the bargaining table. We extend our sympathy for the inconvenience caused to the theatregoing public, and assure everyone who has purchased tickets that they will get an exchange or refund."

Although the union has not issued an official statement, picketers have been handing out flyers in front of several Broadway theatres. The flyer states, in part, "We truly regret that there is no show. . . Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now. Cuts in our jobs and wages will never result in a cut in ticket prices to benefit the public, but only an increase in the profits for producers. Unlike the producers, we are not fighting for our second or third homes: we are fighting to keep the one that we have."

Actors' Equity released a statement Nov. 10 at 11 AM ET in support of the union. In its statement, spokesperson Maria Somma said, "Actors' Equity Association strongly supports Local One/IATSE in their efforts to reach a fair and equitable contract. The responsibility for the shutdown of Broadway rests squarely with the League of American Theaters and Producers. The Equity Council, per the Union’s Broadway contract language, endorses and supports the strike, which has been sanctioned by Local One’s IATSE International President, and directs its members to honor the picket line. The men and women of Local One/IATSE deserve fair wages and working conditions and, most importantly, the respect of everyone who is part of the theatrical community."

Broadway was last darkened by a musicians strike in 2003, which ended after four days.

Union and Producers Escalate War of Words on Day 2 of Strike
By Andrew Gans
12 Nov 2007


Largely silent during the months of contentious contract negotiations leading up to the strike that shut down most of Broadway over the weekend, Local One, the stagehands union, held its first press conference Nov. 11 to make its case to the public. The League of American Theatres and Producers, which had held its own press conference a day earlier, responded quickly with a press release, reiterating its position, and citing examples of what it termed "wasteful and costly" union work rules.

Held at St. Malachy's Church on West 49th Street in Manhattan, the Local One press conference was presided over by James Claffey Jr., the president of that 121-year-old organization, with support from Bill Dennison, the recording vice-president of Local 802 (the musicians union) and the executive director of Actors' Equity, John Connelly.

Claffey said that the union has purposefully avoided taking their case to the press because he believes that the producers and the union should be able to hash out their issues in private and reach an agreement "that's honorable. We believe that that time has passed, and it's necessary to defend ourselves in the press because we are being attacked."

"[The League] tried to provoke us to strike for weeks and weeks and weeks. Why do you implement on a group that you know is capable of taking you on if you don't want them to strike? They wanted public support. . . They implemented on us without bargaining. There's no honor in that. None." Claffey was referring to the fact that in late October the League began implementing portions of its proposed contract that the union had previously rejected.

When asked what he would say to theatregoers who had purchased tickets to darkened shows, Claffey said, "I ask for their understanding. We're fighting for our lives, just as I expect they would [fight for theirs]. . . . This isn't just about us. This is about a middle class job that we're trying to protect. We suggest to the public that's trying to pay for that ticket — we're trying to keep our wages so we can afford that same ticket that they have to pay for."

Claffey said the union is willing to return to the negotiating table but will not do so until the producers stop using the term featherbedding — employing more workers than needed — as the union considered the term disrespectful: "We're not going back to the table with that lack of respect. . . . We can't negotiate under those circumstances. . . If I keep seeing featherbedding in the paper, it's just going to enrage my members." Although New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has offered to mediate a deal between the two sides, Claffey said that the union has declined that offer.

During the Q&A session with Claffey, the heated issue of work minimums came up repeatedly. Citing one example, the union leader contended that if a show requires 3 hours of work out of an 8-hour day, the union member should be due 8 hours of pay, likening it to the hypothetical situation of firefighters being paid only for the time spent putting out a fire instead of the time having to wait for the fire.

The producers in their Nov. 10 press conference said they want to be able to hire the number of stagehands they need rather than the number of men the union prescribes. Claffey argued that "as the shows get so much bigger, they get so much harder [to work], and my members are getting hurt. I can't deal with [the producers'] bottom line, I have to deal with the protection of my members. If there's a four-person piece that needs to be moved, [the producers are] going to want to do it with three. And, I can't count on them because our relationship is not the same as it used to be because their bottom line is more important than keeping the people safe in our theatre.”

Claffey said that the union has agreed to some concessions. "Right now if you have 32 stagehands on a load-in . . . it requires if you start the call at 8 AM and you go to midnight, all 32 stay on from 8 to midnight. We said at 5 o'clock, you can reduce that number to a minimum number that we've decided. They want that minimum number to be lower."

"We have made [other] 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."

Both the musicians union's Dennison and Actors' Equity's Connelly, were on hand to offer support, with Dennison saying, "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."

Claffey said that the union has a $5.2 million reserve, which he called a "defense fund," which will be used to help all those in the theatre community who have been affected by the strike.

Claffey concluded, "We need to defend our families, and we took action. I'm very proud of what my members have chosen to do, and I'm even more proud of our brothers and sisters out there, who understand what we need to do. . . They know it's going to be them next. They're going to go after you if you're not able to protect yourself. I want to demonstrate to everyone in the theatrical community we're going to defend ourselves, and when you need to defend yourselves, we're going to be there with you. . . . We are going to come back to the table at some point. Broadway has to continue, and we know that."

The League of American Theatres and Producers responded to the Nov. 11 press conference with a statement from Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the organization. The press statement, reads, in part, "Local One, IATSE, the stagehands union, has shut down Broadway. They left the negotiating table and abruptly went on the picket line. They refused to budge on nearly every issue, protecting wasteful, costly and indefensible rules that are embedded like dead weights in contracts so obscure and old that no one truly remembers how, when or why they were introduced. The union wants you to believe they are the victims, the little guys. . . They are professionals and should be well paid, and will remain the best paid in this industry in the world. We simply don't want to be compelled to hire more workers than needed and pay them when there is no work for them to do. . . .These issues can only be resolved at the bargaining table, not on the picket line. We remain prepared to meet 24/7 until we reach an acceptable agreement."

The press release included what the producers cited as examples of excessive or costly legacy work rules that they are seeking to curtail, such as "a flyman making a $160,000 annually in salary and benefits is required for all productions, even when there is no fly cue in the production and no flyman is needed." Producers claim that stagehands' "average annual earnings, in salary and benefits, is more than $150,000, with many stagehands earning more than $200,000."

The union has disputed salary figures provided by the League, with Claffey stating at the press conference earlier in the day, "We have an $88,000 annual salary [for department heads at each theatre]. . . if they're working that week." In response to a question from the press about what the average salary of a union member is, Claffey answered, "[You] can't say an average salary unless you know exactly how many weeks you're working . . .The $150,000/$1600,000 that I heard yesterday [at the producers' press conference] is not factual. If you build in more hours and you work more time, you can accrue more earnings . . . The majority of people that work in the theatres from Local one [are making] $67,000. We're not going to apologize for the talent and skill that we bring to the table."

Local One Will Not Picket Marquis Theatre Nov. 12
By Andrew Gans
11 Nov 2007


Due to a Nov. 12 fundraiser at the Marquis Theatre — home of The Drowsy Chaperone — members of Local One, the stagehands union, will not picket that theatre, which has been dark since the strike began Nov. 10.

On the official Local One website, union president James J. Claffey, Jr., writes, "Local One has just been made aware that a fund raiser for mentally challenged children was scheduled for tomorrow, November 12, 2007 in the Marriott Marquis Theatre . . . Please be advised that I am removing the picket line at the Marriott Marquis Theatre so that this worthy event can carry on for the benefit of these children. After the load-out of the event, the picket line will resume along with all others.

"In addition, Local One refuses to work under the expired collective bargaining agreement that we are exercising our legal rights against. We will work the event free of charge for the benefit of this Organization."

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services and The Americare Companies will present The Third Annual Benefit Concert: A Cause For Celebration! at the Marquis Nov. 12. The evening, which begins at 7:30 PM, will feature Yaakov Shwekey, Shalsheles Junior, Shlomo Simcha, Shloime Dachs and Chazzan Yechezkel Klang, who will be accompanied by Cantor Daniel Gildar. Nachum Segal will be the Master of Ceremonies.



DAY 3:

Day 3: The Strike Continues
By Andrew Gans
12 Nov 2007



Stagehands strike outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre, home of Cyrano de Bergerac, which will be dark until further notice.

photo by Andrew Ku

Monday, a usually quiet day for the Broadway theatre, will be even quieter Nov. 12, the third day of the strike initiated by Local One, the Broadway stagehands union, which has been working without a contract since July 31. The strike is the first in the union's 121-year history.

As the dispute between the union and producers plays out increasingly in the public arena, Nov. 12 marks the first day since the strike began where Broadway will be completely dark. On Nov. 10 and 11, eight Broadway shows were running because theatres in which they are housed are governed by a different union contract. Those shows have no regularly scheduled Monday-night performances and the few Broadway shows that typically play Mondays are being struck by the union, resulting in a completely darkened Great White Way.

(Although it is not a Broadway show, the Marquis Theatre will welcome theatregoers Nov. 12 for The Third Annual Benefit Concert: A Cause For Celebration! The union has agreed to allow the benefit to go on despite the strike.)

While many Broadway ticketholders were left stranded over the weekend, both sides took their case to the public by holding dueling press conferences, both of which were broadcast on local cable channel NY1.

At the League of American Theatres and Producers' press conference on the strike's first day, Nov. 10, executive director Charlotte St. Martin and producers decried the union's absence from the negotiating table Nov. 9 and for not providing any warning about the impending strike. The League also sought to highlight what has come to be the flashpoint of contract negotiations: the issue of employing more union workers than the producers consider necessary, also known as featherbedding.

Largely silent during the three-month period of negotiations leading up to Saturday's strike, the union responded with its own press conference on Nov. 11. Local One president James J. Claffey, Jr. — along with officials of Local 802, the musicians union and Actors' Equity — sought to recharacterize the terms of the dispute as one of the union fighting for its members' families and preserving safety in the theatre.

Claffey said the union is willing to return to the negotiating table but will not do so until "[the producers] give the union more respect." Claffey said the producers' use of the term featherbedding was disrespectful to the union. "As they continue to say featherbedding and they keep [saying] basically that we're thieves," Claffey said, "we're not going back to the table with that lack of respect. . . . We can't negotiate under those circumstances." Although Local One has declined Mayor Michael Bloomberg's offer to mediate a deal, Claffey did say that the union will "come back to the table at some point. Broadway has to continue, and we know that."

The League responded to the union's Nov. 11 press conference with a statement from Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the organization. The press statement, said, in part, "[Local One] left the negotiating table and abruptly went on the picket line. They refused to budge on nearly every issue, protecting wasteful, costly and indefensible rules that are embedded like dead weights in contracts so obscure and old that no one truly remembers how, when or why they were introduced. The union wants you to believe they are the victims, the little guys. . . They are professionals and should be well paid, and will remain the best paid in this industry in the world. We simply don't want to be compelled to hire more workers than needed and pay them when there is no work for them to do. . . .These issues can only be resolved at the bargaining table, not on the picket line. We remain prepared to meet 24/7 until we reach an acceptable agreement."

Broadway was last darkened by a musicians strike in 2003, which ended after four days.

For information regarding refunds of tickets, click here.

Playbill.com will provide further information as it is made available.

*

Theatregoers, some of whom had purchased tickets months in advance and had not heard about the strike, arrived at theatres on Nov. 10 to be greeted by picket lines and union members handing out flyers explaining why they were striking.

The strike even caught producers off guard, leaving little or no time to alert theatregoers that most Broadway productions were closed. At a Nov. 10 press conference Paul Libin, producing director for Jujamcyn Theaters, said the producers received no verbal or written notification from the union about the strike: "The men came in to work at the St. James Theatre for their work call to set up for the 11 o'clock performance [of How the Grinch Stole Christmas], and at 10 o'clock in the morning, they walked out. No one told us they were going to do that until they did that."

Box offices were also closed for the shows that went dark: the box-office personnel, also union employees, honored the Local One picket lines.

The little bit of good news seems to be that those Broadway shows that are open for business are benefiting from the lack of options. In fact, Xanadu sold out its matinee and evening performances Nov. 10, and only standing room was available for Spelling Bee's 8 PM performance. Off-Broadway shows are also seeing more customers. Three Mo' Tenors was completely sold out for its Saturday matinee, and a ticket seller at the TKTS booth said that although there are less people in line than normal, Off-Broadway shows are selling better than normal.

The question remains: When will all of Broadway be up and running? At the aforementioned press conference, Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, addressed that very question. "As we've never had a strike with Local One," St. Martin said, "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."

Hershel Waxman, Vice President of Labor Relations of the Nederlander Organization, also attended the Nov. 10 press conference held by the League. Waxman stated, "We respect the men and women who work for us as stagehands. They do an incredible job for us. We don't belittle anything they do. My disappointment — and I'm speaking for myself — is the lack of leadership of this union. It's the first time in the history of our business that we couldn't come to a deal."

For months, 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. Local One members have been working on Broadway without a contract since July 31.

The union and the League reconvened Nov. 7, returning to the negotiating table for the first time in several weeks. Thomas C. Short, the president of I.A.T.S.E. — Local One's parent union — attended the Nov. 7 and 8 meetings, which proved unfruitful. Following the meetings, Short granted final strike authorization to the union.

The first show affected by the strike was the 11 AM performance of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Nov. 10. Patrick Page, who stars in the title role of the limited Grinch engagement, told Playbill.com, "I'm heartbroken by the faces of all these kids. . . I've just gone around to give them a hug, maybe sing a little bit of a song for them, and make them feel a little better [about the show being canceled]." When asked about his opinion of the strike, Page said, "My only opinion is that these guys are the backbone of Broadway. I've worked with some of these guys on four or five Broadway shows, and they are amazing craftsmsen and workers, and I have absolutely no idea what goes on in those contract negotiations back and forth, but I do know that Actors' Equity Association supports Local One 100 percent, and I'm a member of [Equity]."

Most Broadway productions are affected by the strike; that is, the shows will not go on until further notice for August: Osage County, Avenue Q, A Bronx Tale, Chicago, A Chorus Line, The Color Purple, Curtains, Cyrano de Bergerac, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Drowsy Chaperone, Duran Duran, The Farnsworth Invention, Grease, Hairspray, Is He Dead?, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Spamalot, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer, Spring Awakening, and Wicked.

The only Broadway productions still running are Xanadu, The Ritz, Mauritius, Cymbeline, Pygmalion, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Young Frankenstein and Mary Poppins. These productions are either presented by Broadway's nonprofit sector or are housed in theatres whose contracts with Local One are separate.

St. Martin posted this statement on the League's official website Nov. 10: "Local One has darkened most of Broadway. They have chosen to strike — without notifying us, rather than to continue negotiating. It is a sad day for Broadway, but we must remain committed to achieving a fair contract. Our goal is simple: To pay for workers we need and for work that is actually performed. Stagehands are highly skilled and highly paid. They are — and will remain — the highest paid stagehands in the theatrical world. We deplore the strike and the harm it does to the City, the industry, and the theatregoing public. Indeed, to all talented people who make Broadway the top tourist attraction in New York. A strike will have an economic impact of $17 million per day in direct and indirect costs. This could have been avoided had the union's leadership chosen to act responsibly at the bargaining table. We extend our sympathy for the inconvenience caused to the theatregoing public, and assure everyone who has purchased tickets that they will get an exchange or refund."

Although the union has not issued an official statement, picketers have been handing out flyers in front of several Broadway theatres. The flyer states, in part, "We truly regret that there is no show. . . Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now. Cuts in our jobs and wages will never result in a cut in ticket prices to benefit the public, but only an increase in the profits for producers. Unlike the producers, we are not fighting for our second or third homes: we are fighting to keep the one that we have."

Actors' Equity released a statement Nov. 10 at 11 AM ET in support of the union. In its statement, spokesperson Maria Somma said, "Actors' Equity Association strongly supports Local One/IATSE in their efforts to reach a fair and equitable contract. The responsibility for the shutdown of Broadway rests squarely with the League of American Theaters and Producers. The Equity Council, per the Union’s Broadway contract language, endorses and supports the strike, which has been sanctioned by Local One’s IATSE International President, and directs its members to honor the picket line. The men and women of Local One/IATSE deserve fair wages and working conditions and, most importantly, the respect of everyone who is part of the theatrical community."
Tags: the strike, theatre--stagecrew, theatre--ushering
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