Producers, stagehands agree to meet

Broadway producers and the stagehands union have agreed to a negotiation session on Nov. 7, the first time the two sides will officially meet since they hit an impasse in contract talks Oct. 9.

It seems likely that the union, Local One, requested new negotiation dates primarily to allow reps for the international blanket union IATSE to be present. Attendance by an IATSE official at a round of negotiations is one of the union’s prerequisites for strike authorization.

Still, the new meeting offers a hopeful sign in an otherwise tense situation. During the past two weeks, producers have begun implementing new contract terms without the union’s agreement, and the union has held a membership strike vote and threatened to walk out in December.

The two orgs have been locked in difficult contract talks for several weeks. Producers have taken a tough stance on what they consider outdated, overly costly employment obligations (such as being required to pay a fly operator even when a production has no flies), while Local One, traditionally a strong union, has said it will not give up such protections of its members’ livelihoods without gaining benefits of equal value.

The potential for a Broadway shutdown has hung heavily over the negotiating seshes. The threat of producers locking out the union has shifted in recent weeks to the escalating possibility of a strike called by the union.

There have also been complications on both sides, with the union plagued by rumors of a rift between international and local leadership and producers working to present a united front despite the fact that not all theater owners are members of the League of American Theaters and Producers, the trade association currently negotiating with Local One.

Neither side wants the PR blemish of being responsible for darkening Broadway. So producers implemented new contract terms last week instead of locking out the union, while the union has continued to work.

Local One leaders have said that if talks are not resolved by the end of this month, they would likely call a strike in December — thereby hitting producers during the holidays, Broadway’s most profitable frame.

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