Thursday, November 29, 2007


When the money runs out, so do we.

It would appear that the League took the old stagehand joke seriously. They burned through their $20 million in 2 1/2 weeks and promptly folded. And the deal went down along the lines that the Union had said, a fair exchange for work rules but no concessions.

Was a strike necessary? Evidently in the minds of certain Producers who seem to reflect the contemptuous attitude towards working people found among some bartenders, yes it was. There was going to be blood in the streets, one proclaimed.Literally, no. There were 500 people a day walking the picket lines in front of 27 venues for 10 hours a day for 19 days and, to my knowledge,not a single summons. But there was a tremendous display of solidarity from local unions inside and outside of the theatre community as well as support throughout the US, Canada and Europe.

If there was blood on the street, it flowed out from under the closed Box Office doors as productions hemorrhaged from lost ticket sales. If there was blood on the streets it was from restaurants, vendors, delis, hotels, cabs, novelty stores and other small business men and women who lost sales in order for some to gain more flexibility.

As business men and women who have an intimate knowledge of profit and loss statements (sometimes filed under fiction),the primary question will be when will they recoup what they've spent? I don't know the details of the changes in the contract or the potential impact on future productions but from what I understand, it will take a long, long time. Was it worth the disruption to the city? Was it worth the damage to the brand name that is "Broadway" that those of us who actually work in the theatre have struggled for years to attain and maintain?

It late, I'm bone tired and I have a show tomorrow. I don't have any answers to these questions nor is it even my place to try to answer them. There will be experts and pundits who will throughly discuss this in great detail and analysis right up until the start of the next news cycle.

Me, I'm just a stagehand who spends most of his time in the dark. And I'm going back to work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interlocking directorate? Who, me?

Over at Alternet there's a terrific piece on the strike and the MSM connections to it. Many of our members were shocked by the factually wrong information that was printed about them. Perhaps this article will explain why it happens and how the corporate culture effects them.

Broadway Corporations Like Disney Make Millions as Stagehands Strike to Save Homes, Jobs
By Nancy Van Ness, The Wip. Posted November 20, 2007.

While the commercial media obsess about tourists who can't see the Grinch, striking stagehands struggle to have their voices heard.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Prop Man At The Last Supper

One of the best ways to demonstrate that the League has miscalculated Local One and it's membership was best summarized by a merchant on 46th St. He was reported to have said that by walking the picket line the members of Local One were working harder than they had in years. While this may have more openly shown the contempt that many of the aspiring nouveau and faux riche have for working people, it also demonstrates a lack of understanding of the inner strength that workers today need to have in order to survive today. They need that strength in order to survive downsizing and real estate inflation and diminished buying power of their wages and having their sons and daughters put in harms way. They need that strength in order to keep a household together when both parents have to work.

Walking a picket line with so many people and locations keeps a person from hearing all the stories of support given to the strikers but one story I heard stands out. At a meeting held the other day, among the things discussed was a need for volunteers in the office manning the phone bank. It was hoped to avoid a reoccurrence of the unfortunate loss we suffered earlier in the strike by protecting some of the older members from the inclement weather. As I’ve said earlier, we are accustomed to working in these kinds of conditions, unloading trucks and doing outdoor events but being in a union also means we protect our own.

There were no takers. The old timers felt that their presence on the line was more important than staying comfortable. Someone was quoted that being with my friends, protecting our jobs, keeps me warm.

So the League has gone to war with the stagehands over a philosophy of more. They need more flexibility, more profit and quicker returns to the investors, more latitude to do away with the way of doing things that they don’t understand the why or how the situation or job condition came into being. So be it. They weighed the profit and loss that was going to happen when they were knew there was going to be a strike or lockout and felt that the idea of more was of greater importance than a sense of community in creating an art form. And while they may share the contempt for working people that the hash slinger on 46th St. has, they also did not understand the soul of a union member. They did not understand the hardness it takes to get by in this world of diminished expectations, the fierce protectiveness of each other when threatened or our strength in numbers. This is not just stagehands I’m talking about. The whole theatrical community has come together because they know that they are probably next in the Leagues game plan.

Just be aware that you are taking on the young and fit and the old and hard. I suspect that was the fatal flaw in your plans.