Stagehands picket Goodman Theater

Workers want to earn $16-$22.40 hourly

CHICAGO — Just a few months after moving into its new $46 million theater complex in Chicago’s Loop, the Goodman Theater has run into labor troubles.

The theater’s stagehands, who are members of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 2, were walking picket lines outside the theater last week.

The dispute centers on wages. Stagehands currently make between $10 and $15 an hour. They want between $16 and $22.40.

In materials printed to support the action, the union says that since the Goodman is now downtown (and pays its artistic and executive directors $240,000 and $225,000 per year, respectively), it should pay rates comparable to Broadway road houses and the Lyric Opera.

Goodman management says such increases would add an “unacceptable” amount to the theater’s budget and would result in stagehands making more than most actors and some of the theater’s mid-level administrators.

Executive director Roche Schulfer argues that the Goodman should be compared with other nonprofits like the Steppenwolf Theater and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, with whom its stagehand labor rates are comparable.

Negotiations continued last week. Earlier in the week, some members of United Scenic Artists and other unions were seen coming to the theater in the middle of the night to avoid crossing picket lines. And a source close to the dispute said on March 15 that the Goodman was prepared Friday to come to the table with an offer that was “substantially higher than what they wanted to make before.”

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