Friday, October 19, 2007
According to Miriam Kreinin Souccar of Crain's New York Business, a Broadway strike and/or lockout would cost New York City businesses a whopping $5 million a day in lost revenue because it would "devastate restaurants and stores in the theater district, and even hamper the city’s new international tourism drive" that has a price-tag of more than $30 million.
For those who just now tuned in to this story, most Broadway stagehands have been without a contract since the end of July. Since that time, The League of American Theatres and Producers gave their "final offer" to stagehands' union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.), while also threatening to lockout the union.
Local One balked at the offer, which essentially cut down the number of union members required for load-ins and load-outs -- that is, the move of a new show into a theatre and ushering a show out.
The negotiations came to a screeching halt.
Not wanting to be the party responsible for closing down Broadway, The League backed off its threats of a lockout, despite already instilling fear into thousands of theatre fans.
Then Local One indicated that it would rally its members on Sunday, October 21 to vote on whether or not to authorize a strike (although authorization does not necessarily mean that a strike will occur immediately). Almost immediately after the union announced those plans, The League stated that it would begin to impose parts of its last offer at its theatres on Monday, October 22, which no doubt has added to the angry resolve of the union members. Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered to help, but was politely refused.
Yesterday, the Nederlander Organization, which owns and operates nine Broadway venues, indicated that it would not follow The League in imposing parts of the offer. In both 1999 and 2004, the Nederlander Organization broke ranks with The League and negotiated its own contracts with the stagehands union. Fast forward to yesterday, when Local One announced that if its members authorized a strike -- and a strike were to occur -- none of the Nederlander theatres would be included in that action.
Despite that assurance, Michael Riedel today asserted in his New York Post column that the Nederlander Organization would still move forward in locking out its union members: "Sources say the Nederlanders will not wiggle out of their commitment to their colleagues. Should a strike hit the Shuberts and Jujamcyn, the Nederlanders will lock the stagehands out of their theaters."
Not counting the Nederlanders, the only theatres that won't be impacted by a strike or lockout include the American Airlines Theatre (Pygmalion), the Biltmore Theatre (Mauritius), Circle In The Square Theatre (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Helen Hayes Theatre (Xanadu)Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), New Amsterdam Theatre (Mary Poppins) and Studio 54 (The Ritz).
While Kreinin Souccar quotes a Local One spokesman as saying "the union will give the public 'ample notice' before calling a strike but concedes that 'anything can happen,'" those of us who patronize Broadway will have to wait and see how this shakes out in the days ahead.
In the end, it's all the ancillary workers who'll suffer the most. They're the wait staff and bus staff and dishwashers and shopkeepers who rely on the steady stream of business coming through each of the streets north of 42nd to make ends meet.
Just like them, the audience members are being forgotten. They're the ones who ultimately keep the theatre alive, and if they can shift their livelihood elsewhere -- including to the less costly Off-Broadway or deserving regional theatres -- they should.
Both The League and Local One would do well to remember that in the days ahead.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Nederlanders: On Their Own Again? (October 18, 2007)
The Broadway Theatres Not Impacted By Labor Dispute (October 17, 2007)
Bloomberg Appears Ready To Step Into Fray (October 16, 2007)
If You're Holding Tix For Broadway This Week, You're Safe (October 15, 2007)
Stagehands To Vote On Strike...October 21 (October 12, 2007)
The Shows Must Go On...At Least Over Weekend (October 12, 2007)
Still No Lockout (October 12, 2007)
No Lockout Tonight (October 11, 2007)
Lockout Likely (October 10, 2007)
Is This The One For One? (October 9, 2007)
Stagehands' Union Concedes Key Point (October 5, 2007)
Stagehands Talks To Continue This Afternoon (October 5, 2007)
No Monday Lockout (September 29, 2007)
Before The Holidays Strike? (September 25, 2007)
Thanks, Mel! (July 6, 2007)