Radio City, musicians out of tune on show
A giant inflatable wildcat and a big blow-up rat held a standoff across Sixth Avenue on Wednesday, when the Broadway musicians’ union, Local 802, staged a rally outside Radio City Music Hall against Cablevision, with whom it is negotiating on a new contract for “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”
Local 802 brought the rat, a recurring prop of labor unions, and Radio City mounted the cat over its marquee in response.
Talks between the two orgs have stalled over the agreement with the show’s 35-member orchestra, which makes much of its money from a lucrative overtime arrangement for the approximately 225 shows played during the 10-week “Spectacular” run.
At the rally, union prexy David Lennon led a large band of picketers and supporters — including an actual band — and received pledges of support from the AFL-CIO, the New York City Central Labor Council and City Council member Christine Quinn. Across the street, a handful of Radio City employees handed out fliers and held up signs.
Local 802 contends that Radio City is trying to snatch away the musicians’ overtime. Radio City claims that after there were initial discussions of hiring a second 35-musician orchestra to alternate with the first, the issue was taken off the table when the union refused to budge.
“The idea of having two Radio City orchestras is like hiring two Yankee teams,” Lennon declared after the rally.
“They’ve been lying to their members, to the press and to the public,” said Jay Marciano, prexy of Radio City Entertainment, in an interview before the rally.
Company, owned by Cablevision, accused 802 of the same thing in a letter sent to union members Oct. 18.
According to Marciano, when his side offered a two-year agreement comparable to the current one, with wage and benefit increases, 802 abruptly left the table.
“This is a strike-happy union,” he said. Local 802 was the org that spearheaded the 2003 Broadway strike.
“We are ready to negotiate,” Lennon countered.
In the event of a strike, Radio City has investigated the possibility of replacement musicians — which didn’t go over well with the Louisiana musicians they contacted about the idea — and has also explored using taped music or tunes electronically generated by a “virtual orchestra.”
“The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” grossed $73.8 million last year in 10 weeks, and the org expects the show to make about that much again this year.
There are no plans as yet to return to the table before full rehearsals for this year’s show begin Sunday.