Radio Hall labor squall
The “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” went on as scheduled this weekend, playing a total of nine performances with taped music replacing the striking orchestra. Behind the scenes, however, the labor dispute intensified.
The musicians’ union, Local 802, Friday filed a complaint and sought an injunction against Cablevision, owner of Radio City Entertainment, with the National Labor Relations Board.
Cablevision CEO James Dolan has asked David Lennon, prexy of Local 802, for a public letter of apology stating that Lennon lied to union members, supporters and the media about the contentious contract negotiations, misrepresenting what proposals had been made and retracted and when.
If granted by the NLRB, injunction would require Cablevision to rescind what Lennon called “the unlawful condition.” “I never lied,” he said.
The disagreement over the letter came to light thanks in part to a surprise public statement, issued Friday by Local One, that saw one union criticizing the tactics of another.
Local One alleged that Local 802 misrepresented when controversial requests for work rules were taken off the table and when exactly Cablevision had offered a two-year contract with a wage increase of 1.5% for the first year and 2% for the second.
On Oct. 28, the statement continued, Cablevision doubled the wage offer but also added the demand for the letter, which Dolan wanted published in a local paper — Local One says in the New York Post or the Daily News, and Lennon says in the Times.
Lennon said he was ready to sign the contract and comply with the apology up to a point. “I was willing to issue a statement making peace, and apologizing if things were said that offended, or for statements that may have misrepresented their position,” Lennon said.
According to the Local One statement, a draft of the letter was rejected by Cablevision because it did not contain the phrase “I lied.”
In response to requests for comment, Radio City offered only a brief pledge that the show would go on, saying the company “will not negotiate in the press.”
Dress rehearsals for the “Christmas Spectacular” shut down Wednesday, when 802 called a strike against Cablevision. But the next day the show went on as scheduled, playing two performances with taped music.
That day the musicians showed up at the stage door dressed for the performance, saying they would work with or without a signed contract. Radio City refused to let them in until “there is no possibility of them walking out on future performances,” the org said in a statement.
With no picket line to cross, the stagehands went to work. So did the Rockettes, who have a no-strike clause in their contract.
If the musicians decide to picket, it would put the stagehands in the uncomfortable position of choosing between supporting their fellow union — likely to prompt the complete shuttering of the entire “Spectacular” — and crossing a picket line to ensure that the show goes on, thereby protecting the 300 jobs at stake.
“Keeping the musicians out of the building is a single matter of one public letter of apology that admits to lying as requested by Mr. Dolan,” Local One prexy James J. Claffey said. “Somebody has to make a sacrifice.”