The Playgoer: What the Producers are "Implementing"

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What the Producers are "Implementing"

Kudos to Playbill's Adam Hetrick for digging up the details on exactly which changes unacceptable to the stagehands union are being "implemented" this week by shows in Shubert and Jujamcyn theatres.

The list sheds much more light on what's actually being contested in these negotiations and what the impasses are.

The new rules that the League has begun enforcing follow.

Setting the Running Crew
Stagehand crew size and job assignments were previously frozen on the opening night of a Broadway show. The League claims this does not allow enough time to "routine stagehand work and determine appropriate staffing levels." The crew size and job assignments will now be frozen six weeks after opening night. (The Union rejected this proposal.)

Electrician Duties
In some instances up to three electricians have operated the board that controls light, projection and sound cues � a job that can be handled by one electrician. The new rule says that "three separate stagehands are not required" to operate such a board. (Local One tentatively agreed to codify this practice.)

Premium Pay for a 7th Day or 9th Performance
Stagehands who work a 7th day or a 9th performance (for example, a Monday performance for a show that regularly plays a Tuesday-Sunday schedule) are paid time-and-a-half. Previously, even those stagehands who had not worked all six days or eight performances were paid time-and-a-half for this extra performance. The League and the Union agreed to a proposed exchange whereby the League would not be required to pay time-and-a-half to those who had not worked the full week; however, the League agreed to pay time-and-a-half for all work "performed on any non-performance day where a production performs only five days per week (Wednesday through Saturday)."

Overtime Hiring Requirements
Previously, if only a few stagehands were required to work overtime, Broadway producers were required to pay overtime to all of the stagehands that had been called that day. Producers will now pay overtime only to the stagehands required to work past a given call period. (The Union rejected this proposal.)

Meal Periods
Meal periods, the previous contract stated, must take place on the hour at 12-1 PM or 1-2 PM, and for evenings at 5-6 PM or 6-7 PM. During many load-in and technical rehearsal days, management was left a choice between "stopping and restarting work for an entire department on the hour or paying everyone a penalty of a time-and-a-half hour." The League will now implement meal time flexibility as long as a break is given within 3 to 5 hours of a stagehand's start time. The new rule would also allow a 30-minute break if a meal is provided for the crew. (Local One has rejected this offer.)

Rehearsals and Work Calls
Currently stagehands called in for a four-hour minimum call can only perform work specific to that type of call. For example, a crew member called in for a rehearsal call cannot be required to do maintenance work � fixing lights or maintaining scenery. Such work would require an additional work call. The League states that they will now require that stagehands perform any work necessary, within departmental lines, on a production while they are being paid, regardless of the type of call. (Local One has rejected this offer.)

Performance Calls
During the performance of a show, there are strict rules regarding what can be required of a crew member. The Union has agreed to allow "work on equipment and related items for promotion and publicity." The League also proposed that stagehands should be permitted to clean up the set, the show's equipment and repair any problems that occurred during the performance. Should the work require more time than the actual running time of the show, crew members would be paid in one-hour increments. Local One agreed to a two-hour minimum call solely to permit clean up for safety reasons.

Continuity Calls
In the previous Local One contract, stagehands may be called one hour prior to a performance (solely for work related to that performance), or for one hour after the performance, but never both, unless producers schedule an additional four-hour call. Producers now intend to schedule and pay for work up to three hours around any given performance, limited to two hours prior and one hour after. This does not include clean up, which may require two hours. The previous union contract also said that if a show ending at 10:25 PM necessitates additional work, the call-time rolls back to 10 PM, requiring producers to pay for an additional hour's work. And, if more time is needed, the call becomes a four-hour call. The League has eliminated this rule, which Local One rejected.

Canceled Performances
Currently, when a scheduled performance of a show is canceled and replaced by a rehearsal or a work call, stagehands are required to be paid for both the canceled performance and the rehearsal/work call. The League will now not pay stagehands twice for the same hours. (The Union has rejected this proposal.)

I'll try to comment more later. But so far, it's notable that while many of these sticking points may seem to reflect badly on the union (i.e. business as usual, getting paid for "loafing around," etc) I'm sure from the stagehands point of view, these are all demands for equity among workers (i.e. paying all stagehands even if you need just some) and for stability/reliability of work regardless of the whim of producers (i.e. not getting out of paying stagehands by canceling performances.) Something to think about.


parabasis said...


You have been a godsend during this!

One thing for readers to keep in mind (just to follow up on something you've written here) is that many of these things that seem ridiculous (paying someone twice for one job) are meant to disincentivize specific practices rather than actualy be implemented. The point is that you won't cancel a performance because the union has made it very very hard for you to do so.

Ditto overtime. The point is not to make sure that union members get paid a shitload of money regardless of whether they work or not. The point is that producers shouldn't work people overtime.

More flexibility in overtime means fewer people hired (or people losing their jobs). Overtime pay was instituted (in general, not just intheatre) as a way to disincentivize screwing your workers with ridiculously long hours. It's not about being lazy or greedy.

The problem is... it kind of looks, on its face, like they're being lazy and/or greedy (And some of their rejections I'm not sure i agree with). I wonderif htat's a result of inherent anti-union bias of living in america (like would a Frenchmen see this as lazy or greedy?) or if it is just that seeing the disincentivization thing is just not intuitive.

okay, enough ranting from me...

One NYC StageHand said...

Read these items and decide if these things are really worth going to war over. In many ways Local One is being Swift Boated. If you make something or someone a demon and say it often enough, it becomes the truth if truth is a relative term. Any one who has worked in a company that was going through downsizing will understand perfectly the Public Relations playbook being used here. First the threat of a lockout (first made known three years ago at the last neg.), then the turnaround and making it a strike that the League has no control over and then implementation. All the while using carefully crafted and focus group selected words with strong negative connotations to descibe your opponent.
The stagehands make up less than 8% of your average ticket price (nut). Cutting x amount in labor will never make a turkey a hit.

Anonymous said...

The local one theater heads run the union. They work 10 minutes a show for around a 175,000 to 200,000 dollar a year job package.

Part of what they get are vacation checks which can be up to 15 to 25 thousand dollars.

1) They all hire their family members or other family members of other theaters.

2) You have kids out of highschool earning the above money. The other union members will not complain about it because they would never get hired for the other high paying jobs not filled by family members.

3) The head of deparments can not be fired, even though they can't even managed their crews to do what little work they have to do correctly. They can not be fired unless they pretty much kill somebody.

4)Some local one heads
never show up for work they are being paid to do. They have other crew member cover for them. But now when producer want the same type of treatment regarding work they say know way.

5) Not one Local One head could find anyone in the universe to pay them the kind of money they are making, since alot of them never graduated high school. They would not be able to make it in the real world.

6) The heads of the theaters are lying to other members about what they really don't want to give up.
The right that they can't be fired, at the end of a run of a show, or ever. They have 90 year old heads still working that are earning the above money that no longer have all their faculties, it shows you any highschool kid can do there job.

It's done in tv, when a studio closes, if the head did a bad job he is no longer able to hold the head position. And another member takes his place. It works in tv and local one allows it, now why does the same local not want it on broadway.
Because the heads control the Union. So the heads which represent less then one percent of the union will put so many hard working people out of work to protect only there jobs.