Broadway strike talks break down

Shows go dark for Thanksgiving weekend

Negotiations between Broadway producers and stagehands broke off late Sunday night with no further talks skedded, and the Rialto productions darkened by the strike have been canceled through Nov. 25.

That extends the shutdown through Thanksgiving weekend — a stretch that is typically an enormously lucrative one — and seems likely to strike a major blow to the fiscal health of Broadway and area businesses reliant on theatergoer traffic.

Stagehands’ union Local One and the League of American Theaters and Producers spent the weekend at the bargaining table in two long meetings — the first since Local One called a work stoppage on Nov. 10. Power players like Disney labor exec Robert W. Johnson and IATSE prexy Thomas C. Short were present to try to help broker a deal.

The major sticking points remained contractual hiring requirements for the load-in and running of Broadway shows. The two sides have been wrangling for several weeks over a new deal on such work rules, which producers see as outdated and costly but stagehands view as vital job protection.

“The producers informed Local One that what Local One had offered was simply not enough,” said a statement from a union rep Sunday night. “The producers then walked out.”

“The union rejected our effort to compromise and continues to require us to hire more people than we need,” said League prexy Charlotte St. Martin in a statement.

The move by producers to end talks and cancel Thanksgiving perfs, while surprising, does make a certain tactical sense, as it takes the ticking clock of the profitable holiday weekend off the table.

And another week without paychecks for stagehands, not to mention members of other legit unions supporting the strike, is bound to make the rank and file grumble.

Still, even with the $20 million war chest the League has amassed to endure a long shutdown, the strike extension seems to put shows with limited runs (such as “August: Osage County”) and those with lower advance sales (“Les Miserables”) in increasing jeopardy.

With most Rialto shows darkened (except for those at eight theaters that have separate contracts with Local One), Gotham economy watchers fear the loss of revenue at area businesses including restaurants, hotels and parking lots.

In an effort to boost local biz over the weekend, a group of restaurants in the theater district announced 15% discounts.

There may be good news for one Broadway production, however. Word is that the limited holiday run of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which is in a League theater but has a separate contract with Local One, may have worked out a deal to get up and running again next week.

Also over the weekend, some Local One picketers wore black armbands in memory of Frank Lavaia, a stagehand at the Minskoff Theater who died Friday night of a heart attack suffered on the line.

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