Monday, April 27, 2009

The Oak And The Willow

"The best test of a civilized society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members. "

Mahatma Gandhi

One of the main talking points of the Broadway League during the run-up to and during the strike in 2007 was that the Local was too inflexible in its rules and resistant to change. The Local replied that we were resistant to job losses and that Local would not change work rules without something in exchange. We were called featherbedders in public and worse in private, I'm sure.

The reality is somewhat different, of course. Given the width and breath of Local One's jurisdiction, with scene shops, television, opera, concert halls, Off-Broadway and LORT contracts, there is no such thing as a one size fits all contract. Are there standards that we want maintained? Yes. Safety, retirement security, cleanliness, the ability to take a break and have a meal, minimum calls, a living wage, these are all standards we work to keep. However, we don’t write contracts that close shows or shops. We will make adjustments when they are called for. Stagehands are nothing if not practical.

It was with some pride that I learned that the Local members voted on Sunday to accept wage freezes at two theatre companies that have been hit hard by the financial mess. As a Local we have worked over the years to help grow these companies with contracts and conditions that were appropriate for them and their size. Also passed was a new contract for a space in the Bronx that had been organized. In that contract the Local recognizes that the venue has a split mission, one as a roadhouse and one as community theatrical resource. As a result, there are different pay rates for the crew, depending on the event.

I think one of the inadvertent highlights of the labor disputes 2003 and 2007 is a renewed sense of “community” in the theatrical community. We have a history of helping each other during tough times. Now is one of those times and Local One is doing its part.

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