Union vows to picket red carpet

A potential labor dispute is brewing in the countdown to the Tony Awards Sunday, with stagehands union Local One threatening to picket the red carpet portion of the Tony ceremony at the Beacon Theater.

Disagreement has arisen over the fact that the layout and environs of the Beacon, a new and smaller-than-usual venue for the Tonys, has necessitated the positioning of the red carpet across the street from the theater. Because the location isn’t on Beacon property, producers of the Tony Awards aren’t required to used union labor as they are for the majorty of the show in and around the theater.

Producers aim to use to non-union labor for the red carpet, prompting Local One to promise a demonstration that could, if members of Actors Equity and other legit unions opt to honor the picketline, leave the red carpet largely unpopulated.

“We’re going to exercise our legal right to demonstrate,” said Local One prexy James J. Claffey Jr. He’s also intending to trot out the union’s giant inflatable rat for the occasion, he added, saying that he hopes to get some 400 union members on the scene.

“The Tony Awards are working together with the Local One Union on the entirety of the Tony Awards telecast and the surrounding operations of the event on Sunday,” said Alan Williams of Tony Awards Productions in a statement. “When the decision was made for the location of the carpet, the Tony Awards wanted and tried to work out a labor contract with Local One — unfortunately, neither party could reach an agreement. As a result of the budget, an outside crew had to be assembled.”

It’s not yet certain how legit union members will react to calls to boycott the red carpet. In the past, however, Broadway’s unions have tended to stick together, joining the stagehands for the 2007 strike that shut down the Main Stem for 19 days and, prior to that, showing solidarity with striking musicians in 2003.

It’s said that Local 802, the Broadway musicians’ union, is also intending to demonstrate outside the Tonys, prompted by the current dust-up with producers over recorded music in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” That plan, however, couldn’t be confirmed.

The threatened Local One action so far doesn’t seem to jeopardize the Tony ceremony itself, which will be aired live on CBS Sunday.

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