Broadway Stagehands Strike

December 31, 2007

Broadway Stagehands Talk Back

I recently discovered a website (thanks to another tip from one of my loyal readers) that allows Broadway stagehands to voice their opinions about issues facing them.  It's called a "member's website" . . . a kind of social networking for stagehands. 

It's another example that proves that online water coolers are the future of the proliferation of ideas.

Check it out at www.BroadwayLocalOne.com and click on the "Stagehands Talk Back" section to read all about their thoughts on the Broadway Strike, the WGA strike, their leaders, the producers, and much, much more. 

I read it for hours.

November 29, 2007

Who really won the Broadway Stagehands strike?

There were two winners, actually.

Winner #1

&

Winner #2

Special thanks to Elizabeth for the email and the reminder.

November 28, 2007

Oops. He did it again.

Here is a quote from the Local 1 press release yesterday stating that talks for the Broadway stagehands strike had stalled once again:

"I'm going home to get some sleep, shut off my phones and not check e-mails for the next few hours." - Bruce Cohen, spokesperson for Local 1.

Wow.  Good to know that during this crisis, while thousands of people, Local 1 members included, are staying awake at night wondering when their next paycheck is coming, Mr. Cohen isn't available to take their calls or anyone else's.  I guess if the League wanted to settle and put everyone back to work, and get the shows open for the thousands of disappointed tourists, Mr. Cohen would be unavailable. 

And, remember, Mr. Cohen WROTE this release.  He wanted everyone to know that he was taking a nap.

Being a leader means being available, whether you're running a company, a country or a canasta competition. Being a leader means that people depend on you.  And when people depend on you for their checks or their confidence, you have a responsibility.

There are a lot of perks that come with being a leader (including getting paid during strikes while everyone else is out of work, I'm sure), and if you have to sacrifice some sleep during moments of great crisis, then so be it. 

November 26, 2007

As the strikes comes closer to a resolution, I'm getting more riled up.

I've tried to remain calm during all of this and I've tried to look at both sides of this destructive dispute since I have friends on both sides of the table.  But now I'm irritated.

Here's a paragraph from yesterday's New York Times with a quote from Bruce Cohen, the spokesperson for Local 1:Ph2007112600456_3

“They want all this great flexibility after a performance,” Mr. Cohen said. “They want us to work one hour, two hours, three hours after a performance. We want to go home and make our train. We live in the suburbs, and we want to make the last train out of Penn Station, and they don’t seem to recognize that.”

Mr. Cohen . . . are you really saying that the League should take into consideration where a person CHOOSES to live when negotiating a collective contract?  And are you really making a sweeping generalization suggesting that all of your members live in the suburbs (I know a few that live on the Upper West Side that might disagree with you).  You want to make your train???  What the . .

Can you imagine what the Local would say if the Producers had said that they needed to make their train to their house in the suburbs?

If a person wants to live in the city, outside the city, or in a box in Sri Lanka, that is his or her choice, and to state that the contract governing his employ should recognize his CHOICE is just absurd.

What's next . . . is Mr. Cohen going to a make gross generalization suggesting that Local 1 members choose to drive SUVs and therefore require more money for gas?   
Or that they choose high protein diets so they need more money to pay for steaks?  Or that Local 1 members like collecting faberge eggs? All of these are absurd fabrications on my part . . . yet all are lifestyle choices that have nothing to do with an employer's obligation to an employee.

If I don't want to commute to work, then I must move closer to work.  If I want a more suburban lifestyle, then I have to commute to work. If I want to raise pigs in my spare time, then I have to wake up early
and pay for slop.  Or . . . I can change jobs to fit the lifestyle that I want.  I have that choice.  Simple.

You know what makes me more upset (And Local 1 members should be just as upset)?  The fact that Mr. Cohen is a spokesperson.  He's a press rep.  He should be a lot smarter than this.

November 23, 2007

Why I was wrong.

Ok, I was wrong about the strike.  I admit it.  Now the fun part is trying to understand why.

I didn't think there would be a Broadway stagehands strike because of the history of the two organizations at the crux of this confrontation.

What I failed to take into account is how the makeup of those organizations, especially The Broadway League, has changed over the past several years.

We forget that the theater industry is a young one.  The modern theater is less than one hundred years old.  The golden age of musicals ended less than 50 years ago, and some of the individuals that played such a crucial role in the birth of the business are still active players in the industry.  But to quote a turkey from last year, the times are a changin' . . . and I'm seeing a whole generation of these incredible leaders start to play less and less of a role in the day to day operations of the theater, as a new group of producers comes into their own.  It's the theater industry's version of the "baby boomer" phenomenon.

The last three major negotiations have been more contentious than their previous years.  Local 1 (strike), Local 802 (strike), AEA (no strike, but it resulted in a major restructuring of the touring market).  This is not a coincidence.  This is a result of these baby boomers getting in there and shaking things up.  Which is exactly what's needed.

And what else is different about these three negotiations? 

They are all post 9/11. 

We live in a new theatrical economy now.  The way we live changed significantly that day, and therefore the way we do business has to change with it.  Whether we like it or not. 

November 12, 2007

Strike Thought of the Day: What's wrong with a little therapy?

Here's something to consider as all of you contemplate which "side" you're on in regards to the current Broadway Stagehands strike.

The mayor of New York City offered to provide both the League and Stagehands with a mediator as well as neutral territory to help bring this strike to a quicker resolution.  You might recall that his help was instrumental in ending the Local 802 strike in 2003.

Local 1 continues to refuse his offer of assistance.

The League has welcomed his help.

Hmmmm . . .

Why would the Stagehands not welcome an objective party to help bring these two organizations closer together which would put people back to work faster and satisfy thousands of theatergoers sooner? 

Could it be that they are afraid that an objective and impartial mediator would take a look at their demands and current work rules and advise them that what they are striking for is not fair in the current economic climate on Broadway and in the United States?

If this contract negotiation were like a marriage going through a troubled time, then Local 1 would be the stubborn husband who refuses to go to therapy.  What's wrong with talking to someone, Local 1?  It's just a therapist.  They don't bite.  Although, if you have cheated on your partner, then you may end up sweating a bit . . .

This marriage needs help.  Divorce isn't an option.  Both parties have kids to think about.  And those kids really, really want to see The Little Mermaid.

November 10, 2007

I owe a lot of people a lot of money.

The stagehands are going on strike tomorrow morning, which means I lost my bet.

But, as an Off-Broadway producer of three shows that will be up and running throughout the strike, I am happy to pay up.  :-)

I'll comment more on the strike and why I was wrong later.  Right now I've got a few things to do to make sure people know that Off-Broadway is open for business!

October 22, 2007

We're one pitch away from a Strikeout.

A lot of people have been asking me whether or not I think the Local 1/Broadway League contract negotiation will result in a strike.

My answer is simply . . . no.  There will be no Local 1 strike.

In fact, I'll bet $100 on it.  Any takers?  I'll pay 10:1.

Why am I so confident?  Because of a man named Mr. Trocchio, my high school history teacher who taught me that to determine the course of the future, you must look at the events of the past (ok, every history teacher teaches that . . . but Mr. Trocchio sticks out in my mind because he used to grade our papers while eating pasta and once I had spaghetti sauce on my ten-pager about the Treaty of Versailles).

Anyway . . . when you look at the history of modern labor negotiations in the theater, you will see that there have been only two strikes on Broadway since 1975. 

That data alone would be enough to give even odds that there will be no strike.

Here's why I'm giving 10:1:

BOTH of those strikes in the last 32 years have been by the SAME union . . . Local 802.  The musicians.

And, in fact, Local 1 has never struck Broadway.

The League and all of the other unions it negotiates with, from the Actors to the Ushers, have always been able to resolve its issues without a walkout.  Always.  No matter how contentious those negotiations can get.

A major contract negotiation is like the Fourth of July.  Both are on the calendar.  And both have lots and lots of fireworks.

But that doesn't mean Broadway is going to blow its hand off.

(Although, I have to be honest.  As the producer of three Off-Broadway shows that would have a lot less competition if there was a Broadway strike, there's a part of me that's secretly hoping for one.)

What Mr. Trocchio would really be interested in, besides a plate of ravioli, is why the musicians walk out more than anyone else?  What is it about those negotiations that don't go as well?

This is something we should all start looking at now, or I may be betting the other way when their negotiations come up next.

Until then, watch my Red Sox win the series if you're looking for strikes.

Oh, and if there are any Federal Agents reading this blog, please know that the above referenced bet was made in jest.  This is not an online gambling site and we have no way of taking money, even though if  someone was interested in taking that bet, they could email me using the address to the left of this blog.

Happy Strike Watch!