By Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Broadway is getting closer to going dark with contract talks at an impasse between stagehands union Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and The League of American Theaters and Producers, which represents Jujamcyn and Shubert theater owners, who account for 22 of the 39 Broadway houses. Even a last ditch attempt by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to mediate talks has been rebuffed; in 2003, the mayor helped end a Broadway musicians strike.

Local 1 president, James Claffey, declined the mayor’s offer. “The mayor understands and respects our organization’s right to bargain,” he told UPI.

The stagehand’s union has called for a meeting on Sunday, Oct. 21, for a strike vote. Since July 31, stagehands have been working without a contract. Both sides rejected offers made on Oct. 9.

Several factors are at issue, including the number of stagehands required during certain periods at the beginning of a production. Producers are looking to cut costs by decreasing this number and the hours worked.
On Oct. 16, the League said that portions of their final contract offer was going to be implemented beginning on Monday, Oct. 22.

“We are forced to implement because Local One will not pursue meaningful change,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the League’s executive director, on its website. “They not only rejected our offer; they submitted a counter-offer which would make matters worse by requiring even more nonproductive hiring,” she continued. “During the life of the contract, under these provisions, costs for new musicals would rise by 30 percent and for plays would rise by 44 percent. This is indefensible in an industry with a financial failure rate of 80 percent 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 theater 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.”

As previously reported, stagehands earn anywhere from $1,225 to above $1,600 per week on average. With overtime and premium or additional work, many stagehands make more than $110,000 annually.

Last Updated on March 17, 2009 by Alfred Branch Jr.