Sunday, November 11, 2007

Assessing the Strike

Very simple: I'm 100% against featherbedding, and in that I think the League has a legitimate point and should argue it strenuously. But I think the League consists of a group of completely disingenuous bastards who deserve whatever pain they receive as a result of Local One going out on strike. I mean, will the removal of featherbedding, for example, bring down ticket prices? Will it bring about more commercial productions -- thus more work for Local One members? Who is benefitting other than the shallow, mealy-minded, crass buttheads who pass off crap on Broadway as the apotheosis of high art?

I'm looking for a YouTube video of Charlotte St. Martin from her appearance yesterday on TV. Oh, pity the children, she says, pity the savaged tourists who come to New York just to be able to inhale the Broadway spirit -- oh, how could those union people have destroyed their lives!! What a sourpuss. What a shame.

Meanwhile, this was part of the press release I received yesterday announcing the press conference that already happened today at 11am. Interesting stuff.
Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is not ashamed to protect good middle class jobs that support home mortgages, family health care and education in good public schools and opportunities for decent higher education for the children of union members.

The producers' releases have celebrated an offer of 16.5% increase in wages, but what the producers failed to mention in any of their public relations materials is that their offer was accompanied by a 38% cut in jobs and income.

Producers are enjoying a billion dollar season with shows making record profits and record box office receipts. The intransigence of the producers may lead to the disappointment of 20 to 30 thousand theater-goers each day and will affect restaurants and hotels. A major dent will be inflicted on New York City's prime industry, tourism.

All of the commercial producers and theaters on Broadway except the New Amsterdam, which is owned by Disney, are non-public corporations and do not make public their profits and losses. Last year, the League announced Broadway box office grosses of $939 million but income from licensing, subsidiary rights for films and tours, and hugely lucrative merchandise sales as well as producers' show profits and office fees, are an industry secret. Losses from flops such as Pirate Queen and High Fidelity cost producers $96 million, claimed the League.

The League has remained silent on profits and secondary revenue streams.

Local One has never struck Broadway. On October 12, Mr. Claffey called for a strike vote three days after the producers handed their final offer across the table. With no talks scheduled, and producers possibly locking out Broadway or implementing onerous work rules, the union saw a strike authorization as the next action in defense of good middle class jobs.

On October 9, Mr. Claffey said, "what the producers failed to do was recognized 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's repeated position is that any alteration to the work rules must come in exchange for other benefits to its members. (The New York Times, July 26, 2007)

In the negotiations, the producers said they were seeking more flexibility in determining when, and how many, stagehands are needed.

"The union addressed nearly every item on the producers' list and offered imaginative solutions that met the producers' requests," said Mr. Claffey on October 9.

If there is a work stoppage on Broadway, Broadway stagehands will readily find work in other areas of the union's.vast jurisdiction throughout Manhattan, The Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester and Putnam, including television, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, City Center, hotels, trade shows and Lincoln Center (there are as many Local One jobs at Lincoln Center alone as there are on Broadway.)

For 121 years, Local One has been the premier stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The union represents 3,000 property persons, stage and studio electricians, set carpenters, sound designers, audio technicians, moving-light operators, riggers and special effects people in New York.

For a history of Local One, click here.

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