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Strike Coverage Day 18: Negotiations Fail - 'Grinch' Continues

LATEST NEWS: A statement from the League of American Theatres and Producers reads, "The League of American Theatres and Producers and Local One talked through the night and were unable to reach an agreement. Talks will resume tomorrow (Wednesday, November 28) at 10AM. Performances are canceled through Wednesday's matinees."

The Broadway community was given a false-sense of hope last night when both parties shared signs of hope on-camera late last night (November 26).   NY1 reports: Cohen emerged from the talks just before 5AM stating: "Right now it's the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series. I'm optimistic both sides are still talking, even as the sun rises over Manhattan. People are getting their second wind. There's still hope that before people leave the building today, there will be an agreement."

Last on-camera word from Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The League, was: "We're hoping for a successful conclusion."  

This makes the second failed-attempt of weekend negotiations.  Talks fell-through last weekend (November 17 & 18) as well.  Network news sources reported last night that the issue of load-in had been resolved, However issues of continuity hours and mopping duties were still being discussed.  The strike has been estimated to cost the city of New York $2-million a day, adding up to approximately $34-million in lost revenue so far. 

There were reports that both sides had open spreadsheets in front of them and that the union showed up 25 strong.  Talks were held at the law firm Proskauer Rose, which represents The League. 


How The Grinch Stole Christmas will keep the St. James Theatre smiling and green this holiday season, as reports say Jujamcyn Theatres have agreed to not appeal last week's court ruling to keep the show alive on Broadway.

Variety reports: "Judge Helen Freedman agreed, and the appeal, originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, has been canceled. The show has resumed its regular performance schedule and will continue until Jan. 6, when its limited run is slated to end."

The Nederlander Organization – and the producers of the nine shows currently housed in the Nederlander-owned theatres – is suing the stagehands' union Local One for $35 million.

Reuters reports: "Producers sued members of Local and its president James Claffey Jr. in Manhattan federal court seeking to recover damages for lost revenues… The League of American Theaters and Producers has said the strike that has darkened some 25 productions since November 10 is costing a total of about $17 million for every day it lasts."  The law-suit was filed late Tuesday November 20.

The League of American Theatres and Producers has provided their own Claim vs. Fact sheet: Details Here.
Actors' Equity has provided their own Myth vs. Fact sheet: Website Here.

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At 10AM on Saturday, November 10 the Theatrical Stage Employees Union/Local One went on strike, shutting down nearly all of Broadway. The decision to walk off the job came after negotiations stalled between Theatrical Stage Employees Union/Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The strike effectively closed 27 Broadway theatres and sent theatre-goers and members of the Broadway community into confusion and frustration.  Businesses throughout the Times Square / Theatre District area are already feeling the impact of the strike with reduced traffic to bars, restaurants and other venues.

Most Broadway shows have been closed for 17 days (and counting)...  Members of the Broadway community hold their breath, awaiting the results of the negotiations this weekend.

When the well will run-dry. What happens to the "starving artists"? What about the limited Broadway engagements that haven't even raised a curtain?

In efforts to provide the most exclusive coverage of the Broadway stagehands' strike, BroadwayWorld.com's News Desk Editor, Eugene Lovendusky, has done some digging to present the facts as they stand now...

What is Local One?

Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is the most powerful Broadway union made up of over 3,000 stagehands, near 500 of whom work on Broadway.

What is The League of American Theatres and Producers?

The League of American Theatres and Producers consists of over 600 members including theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters and general managers in North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the commercial theatre industry.

What is Actors' Equity?

Actors' Equity is the labor union that represents more than 45,000 actors and stage managers in the United States. Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions and provides a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans, for its members. Actors' Equity has announced solidarity with Local One during the strike.

What is Local 802?

Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians is the largest local union of professional musicians in the world. Local 802 fights for the interests and well-being of the musicians employed in New York's music and entertainment industries, through organizing and collective bargaining as well as through legislative and political action.  Local 802 has announced solidarity with Local One during the strike.

What are Local One and The League fighting about?

The answer is complicated, but it comes down to minimums... How many stagehands are needed for a days' work? What qualifies as a "days' work"? And how much is each stagehand to be paid for their work? Campbell Robertson of The New York Times offers an informative and in-depth explanation of the strike and both sides' issues: Read Here

The League of American Theatres and Producers has provided their own Claim vs. Fact sheet: Details Here.

Actors' Equity has provided their own Myth vs. Fact sheet: Website Here.

Since July, the union and the League have been in rigorous contract negotiations, which came to a stand-still in late October when both sides proposed their "final offers." Local One, which has been operating without a contract since negotiations began, was toldFriday by its parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, to begin the walkout on Saturday.

Broadway producers have proposed loosening rules on when stagehands are needed for work, how many are needed and what tasks they are allowed to perform. The union has countered that any alterations made to the rules that would mean less work for stagehands, and therefore needs to come with exchanges of equal value. This comes most into play during the expensive process of loading in new shows. 

Have Local One and The League returned to the bargaining table?

The League and Local One last held meetings the weekend of November 17 & 18.  Over 13 hours Saturday and over 11 hours Sunday left talks with no resolution, and Broadway shows were canceled through November 25.  It is reported The League and Local One will return to the drawing-board this weekend (November 25) though no official statement has been released.

How much longer will the strike last?

There is no confirmed date or official speculation.  Stagehands may return to work as soon as next Monday. However, some publications estimate the strike may last through December.

What is the Local One emergency strike fund?

President James J. Claffey of Local One says the $5.2-million emergency strike fund is "a defense fund for everyone in the theatre community affected by this labor dispute."

From Juan Gonzalez' column in the Daily News, November 21, 2007:
Local One Stage Union Amasses $5M Strike Fund to Fight Bosses, Lawyer

"Broadway owners and producers… hired the Proskauer Rose law firm and its labor relations chairman, Bernard Plum, to fashion their strategy. The city's organized labor movement hates Proskauer Rose. This is the same firm that advised the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in labor negotiations that led to the disastrous transit workers strike two years ago…. Only about 350 of Local One's 2,200 active members are involved in the work stoppage. That's not a big number, considering the union's coffers are bulging with cash. This Friday, Local One will begin paying each striker about $400 a week in strike pay. It is even offering some money to the ushers and porters idled by the walkout. At that rate, the union can afford to provide its members weekly checks well into next year. The theater owners who followed Proskauer Rose's advice have lost more money than they would have saved if they got what they wanted. Every day the strike continues, the owners, the workers and the city lose millions more, and our city loses a big part of what makes it unique during the holiday season. Only Proskauer Rose and its $800-an-hour lawyers will make money from here on."

Where and how does the money from the Local One fund get distributed?

As of Wednesday November 14, Local One has agreed to a press black-out with The League and offers "no comment."

Do Actors' Equity and Local 802 have their own emergency strike funds?

Actors' Equity has their own $2.3-million strike fund.  Local 802 answer pending.

How are Broadway actors being paid while out of work?

Show captains have been or will be distributing W-9 forms to all Equity members.  Strike benefit checks are being distributed as Equity actors sign-in on Thursday or their next regularly schedule show time.

Maria Somma, Actors' Equity spokesperson, elaborates: "The benefit will be $405 per actor regardless if the actor makes well above minimum or not...  If the strike extends another week, that will be the exact amount that we're giving again."

What happens if the strike funds run out?

"As far as [Actors' Equity] is concerned, if we need to have another meeting to put additional funds in, then we'll have that meeting at that time," states Somma.

What are Broadway actors required to do while off work?

As of Wednesday November 14 at 11:40AM, the Actors' Equity Association Hotline for Local One Negotiation reports that cast members in shows affected by the Local One strike should continue to report to their theatres no later than half-hour and sign-in with their stage managers and Equity representative.  Actors should remain until at least curtain time, and are encouraged to join the Local One picket-line.  Actors are asked to disregard any information from their producer if advised not to report to work.

What Broadway events have been put on-hold because of the strike?

Sunday November 11: The 10-year anniversary The Lion King performance was canceled, though the party was held.
Wednesday November 14: Opening Night of The Farnsworth Invention has been postponed.
Thursday November 15: Opening Night of The Seafarer has been postponed.
Tuesday November 20: Opening Night of August: Osage County will be postponed.  Performances have been extended through March 9, 2008 in hopes of recouping strike losses.
Wednesday November 21: John Lloyd Young will miss his official final performance in Jersey Boys
Friday November 23: First Preview of The Homecoming will be postponed.
Thursday December 6: Opening Night of The Little Mermaid has been postponed.

What Broadway shows are currently closed?

The following Broadway shows (and respective houses) are closed during the strike: A Bronx Tale (Walter Kerr Theatre); A Chorus Line (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre); August: Osage County (Imperial Theatre); Avenue Q (Golden Theatre); Chicago (Ambassador Theatre); Curtains (Al Hirschfeld Theatre); Cyrano de Bergerac (Richard Rodgers Theatre); Grease (Brooks Atkinson Theatre); Hairspray (Neil Simon Theatre); Is He Dead? (Lyceum Theatre); Jersey Boys (August Wilson Theatre); Legally Blonde (Palace Theatre); Les Miserables (Broadhurst Theatre); Mamma Mia! (Winter Garden); Rent (New Amsterdam Theatre); Rock 'n' Roll (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre); Monty Python's Spamalot (Shubert Theatre); Spring Awakening (Eugene O'Neill Theatre); The Color Purple (Broadway Theatre); The Drowsy Chaperone (Marquis Theatre); The Farnsworth Invention (Music Box Theatre); The Lion King (Minskoff Theatre); The Little Mermaid (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre); The Phantom of the Opera (Majestic Theatre); The Seafarer (Booth Theatre); Wicked (Gershwin Theatre).

What Broadway shows are currently open?

The following Broadway shows (and respective houses) are open, not affected by the strike: Cymbeline (Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre); Mary Poppins (New Amsterdam Theatre); Pygmalion (American Airlines Theatre); The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Circle in the Square); The Ritz (Studio 54); Xanadu (Helen Hayes Theatre); Young Frankenstein (Hilton Theatre); Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (St. James Theatre)

For those in need of information on how to collect refunds, click here.

In addition, all Off-Broadway shows are running, as well as Off-Off-Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, and all variety and concert venues.  For a list of Off-Broadway shows, none of which are affected by the strike, currently running, click here.

Photo by Eugene Lovendusky: Local One union members on-strike outside the Nederlander Theatre

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From This Author Eugene Lovendusky

Eugene Lovendusky graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a BA in Writing for Electronic Media and a minor in Drama. Raised in the SF (read more...)