Friday, October 19, 2007

$5 Million Per Day

$5 Million Per Day

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).

Related Stories:
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)

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At 20 October, 2007, Anonymous bobseetwin said...

It looks like the union is forced to strike,
Why should the League force work rules ,They have been working with local one for 100years.
this strike fund 20million was raised by the league from a fee added on to all ticket prices.
(They are getting the public to pay for there greedy Goals since 2004)
Steve can you post those e mail addresses again
let the league Know that you see thru there game of blame and illiusion

Health of the industry (about 1 billion a year)

The Union Dosent want its workers walking a picket line
It dosent want people not to be able to see shows

But someone has to stand up for the American Worker
The league would out source labor If they could import workers from somewhere cheaper.

At 20 October, 2007, Anonymous onthespot said...

Mr. Claffey said. “We are committed to making a deal if these folks call us and invite us to make a deal.”

The League of American Theaters and Producers has made what it called a final offer and is to begin imposing some of the rules in that offer on Monday.

At 20 October, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The League has Chosen NOT TO MEET
or Negoiate

At 20 October, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for all your comments.

There was an informative article by Campbell Robertson in this morning's New York Times. With five important paragraphs:

But despite the preparations (for a lockout and/or strike), James J. Claffey Jr., the president of Local One, the stagehands’ union, emphasized that the planned vote on Sunday, at which the union is expected to authorize a strike, by no means signaled that one was imminent.

“That would be considered after everything else is exhausted,” Mr. Claffey said. “We are committed to making a deal if these folks call us and invite us to make a deal.” (Emphasis added)

The League of American Theaters and Producers has made what it called a final offer and is to begin imposing some of the rules in that offer on Monday.

But the union appears determined to stick to its own timetable, and it has typically been to the union’s advantage to have talks continue into the busy holiday season, when the potential damage of a strike to producers is greatest. The last two times the union was in negotiations with the league, which represents most of Broadway’s producers and theater owners, an agreement was reached in the last two weeks of November.

So for now the stagehands are planning to go to work next week under the imposed rules, Mr. Claffey said. But, he added, “we’re not going into December without a deal.”

It's been said before that if the union were to select the most opportune time to increase their leverage, it would be right as the very busy holiday season begins around Thanksgiving when Broadway is very busy. Obviously it would be the most inopportune time, not only for The League, but also for the Broadway audience.

That may provide some assurance to anyone worried that a strike might occur over the next few weeks, but for those who have tickets to shows beyond that, we have to hope that this gets resolved.

At 21 October, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we find out Today!
I wonder If they will strike all theatres.
Or just the ones that put up the new rules.

At 21 October, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

According to reports, the authorization to strike would only be against those theatres imposing portions of The League's final offer.


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