Broadway Breakdown?

Will they or won’t they? After ten fruitless weeks of negotiations between Broadway producers and stagehands the shows will go on tonight but anything after that is in question. The two sides are in dispute over how many stagehands are necessary to work a show."

Says League of American Theatres and Producers executive director, Charlotte St. Martin, “The Union's final proposal insists on a flyman on all productions—even when there are no fly cues—and requires more people than necessary on load ins. It demands that producers hire and pay for workers they don't need, and who have no work to perform. No industry can thrive with such wasteful and inflexible work rules. Eighty percent of all shows are financial failures. We have offered fair exchanges, including increased wages, to get rid of these backbreaking regulations.

Local New York City news station NY1 is reporting that Bruce Cohen of Local One has responded to the League of American Theatres and Producers, saying, "We have no authority to strike—we have no intentions of striking. The talk of a lockout is not ours, but we will do what we need to do to defend Broadway and defend the jobs of people who work here."

NY1 also reports that representatives for producers say they don't want a lockout and have yet to set a date for one. But they say they're tired of being contractually forced to pay for stagehands who aren't needed for a particular show. If the stagehands are locked out other unions representing the theatre community are making sure their members know what to do. Local 306, the Ushers Union, says its members will report to work but will be instructed not to cross any picket line that the stagehands put up.

The Partnership for New York City says a lockout could possibly cost the City $5 million a day, and all shows currently playing on The Great White Way would go dark during a shutdown except The Ritz, Mary Poppins, Pygmalion, Mauritius, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Young Frankenstein, which begins previews today, would also not be affected. Those shows play in theatres owned by non-League members or in theatres that have a separate contract with Local One.

In the spring of 2003, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (Local 802) shut down 18 Broadway musicals during a four-day strike. In a first-time move, Broadway’s actors and stagehands, members of Actors’ Equity and the Theatrical Stage Employees, refused to cross the picket lines. That was the last time there was a Broadway strike.

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