Company acts alone in 4-year deal with stagehands

NEW YORK — Local One, the theatrical stagehands union, and the Nederlander Organization have concluded negotiations for a four-year contract that will be ratified at a special union meeting in mid-September. One industry insider said the negotiations weren’t “as acrimonious as some with the League in the past.”

That the negotiations took place, much less were settled, has raised more than eyebrows in the theater community, since the Nederlanders are full members of the League of American Theaters and Producers, which reps labor negotiations for almost all Broadway producers and theater owners. Not every major player belongs: Disney, a notable exception, negotiates separately with all unions.

Jed Bernstein, president of the League, confirmed that the Nederlanders were still full members of the org. “Any member has the ability to engage in one labor negotiation separate from the collective group and still maintain full labor membership,” he said, “and they chose to do this one. Just because they did this one does not mean that they aren’t collectively bargaining with the League in other areas.”

Bernstein indicated that the Nederlanders’ separate negotiations with Local One could, indeed, be a first for a league member. “It’s a rule that was just invented in the last couple of years,” he explained, “so there wouldn’t be a lifetime of history on the matter.”

Local One, a member of IATSE and the most powerful of the theater unions, has always been a bellwether for other labor orgs, which have long jockeyed to schedule their contract negotiations after the stagehands. Most of those contracts, such as those of Actors Equity and the Assn. of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, will be negotiated later this year or in 2000.

Local One’s settlement with the Nederlanders does not simplify the League’s negotiations with the union. As one longtime labor observer put it, “How can they give the stagehands a less advantageous position?”

Phone calls to Local One and the Nederlanders were not returned.

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