Move will darken most productions

Broadway stagehands are set to begin a strike on Saturday, darkening the majority of Rialto productions.

Timing of work stoppage has been ordered by the international president of IATSE, Thomas C. Short, who granted strike authorization to Broadway stagehands’ union Local One after sitting in on contentious labor talks with Rialto producers Wednesday and Thursday.

First show affected Saturday looks to be “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the holiday production whose unorthodox performance sked includes an 11 a.m. Saturday curtain.

Without stagehands, more than 25 productions will not perform. The only Broadway shows not affected are the theaters that have a separate contract with the union — the four nonprofit houses as well as the Hilton, the Helen Hayes, the Circle in the Square and the New Amsterdam.

Actors’ Equity looks poised to honor the Local One picket lines, with the org’s website announcing that the Equity council has voted to support any potential strike.

There are no indications as to how long a work stoppage would last.

Both the union and the trade association of Broadway producers, the League of American Theaters and Producers, have stockpiled funds to help endure a shutdown.

Local One and the League have been wrangling over a new agreement for several weeks. The stagehands have been working without a contract since their previous agreement with producers expired in July.

At issue in the talks are contractual employment obligations, particularly the hiring requirements for the process of loading a production into a Broadway theater. Producers want to establish flexibility on rules — for instance, the obligation to hire a fly operator even for productions that have no flies — that they see as outdated and overly costly. Stagehands, meanwhile, refuse to give up what they see as hard-earned protections of their livelihood without receiving other benefits in exchange.

The last Broadway shutdown occurred in 2003, when a strike called by the musicians’ union darkened Broadway for four days, causing an estimated box office loss of $5 million.

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