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Broadway Strike on to 25 Nov, Costing $17m a Day

By • West End
The Broadway stagehands strike, now in its second week, will continue through this American Thanksgiving holiday weekend, traditionally one of busiest of the theatregoing year (See News, 12 Nov 2007). Negotiations broke down yesterday between strikers and theatre producers, who have now cancelled performances through to 25 November in order to give international and other visitors to New York an opportunity to alter their travel plans.

The strike affects 75% of Broadway productions, with 27 shows – including big musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, Chicago, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King - shut down since 10 November when the walkout commenced. Three plays, Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer - starring Jim Norton and Conleth Hill, who starred in its premiere last year at the National Theatre – and August: Osage County have had to indefinitely postpone their openings. The industrial action is costing New York theatre and ancillary industries, most notably bars and restaurants, an estimated $17 million a day.

The strike was called by members of the Local One, Broadway-based chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, who have been working without a contract since late July. The stagehands are disputing new rules that theatre owners and producers want to introduce limiting the number of stagehands necessary on a production and required lengths of employment.

The strike was called by members of the Local One, Broadway-based chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, who have been working without a contract since late July. The stagehands are disputing new rules that theatre owners and producers want to introduce limiting the number of stagehands necessary on a production and required lengths of employment.

Flyers handed out by picketers outside affected Broadway theatres explained: "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."

Charlotte St Martin, executive director of the League of American Theaters and Producers, said last week that the workers’ union is “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."

After the breakdown in talks this weekend, St Martin released a statement saying: “We are profoundly disappointed to have to tell you that talks broke off tonight (Sunday), and that no further negotiations are scheduled. Out of respect for our public and our loyal theatregoers, many of whom are travelling from around the world, we regret that we must cancel performances through Sunday 25 November.”

St Martin continued: “We presented a comprehensive proposal that responded to the union’s concerns and attempted to address our need for some flexibilities in running our business. The union rejected our effort to compromise and continues to require us to hire more people than we need.” No further negotiations are scheduled.”

Although this is the first Broadway stagehands’ strike in the union’s 121-year history, another strike – by Broadway musicians and its union, the American Federation of Musicians – crippled New York’s Great White Way for four days four years ago (See News, 11 Mar 2003). Prior to that, Broadway had not closed for business in some 20 years, except for two days after 9/11.

- by Terri Paddock

For further information on cancelled shows & ticket refunds – as well as
on-the-street video coverage from the strike zone - visit our partner site TheaterMania.com for updates.


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