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Lights Out for Broadway?

If you follow Broadway theater at all, you know that on Sunday, members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (the union representing most of Broadway's stagehands) authorized a strike against the League of American Theaters and Producers.

That doesn't mean you should start trying to get a refund if you've got November tickets to Spring Awakening or Jersey Boys or some other hot fall show.  But it does mean that, come Dec. 1 and the busy holiday season, the majority of Broadway's theaters would go dark if the union's leaders act on the strike vote.

At issue for the stagehands, who have been working without a contract since the end of July:  pay (of course) and work rules.  Producers are offering a 16 percent increase over five years but want changes in provisions that can force them to hire more stagehands than a show needs.  The union is asking for a 22 percent pay increase over five years, and claims the producers' current "final offer" would mean a 38 percent loss in income and jobs.

The last Broadway strike was a four-day walkout by musicians in 2003.  Broadway tourism is big business, and officials estimate that New York businesses (including theaters, restaurants and so on) could lose more than $5 million a day if a strike happens.

Here's hoping the two sides can work out their differences. But if they don't, what's your feeling about a strike?  Take the poll and/or add comments below.

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MNEW

Everything is expensive! The Stagehands are a vital team to make the shows work their visual magic.

The Producers in this case are trying to force their hand and I hope it kicks them in the rear...

After all it all adds up to $$$$$$$

Christopher Jahn

IATSE, like too many unions, isn't adapting to the times. Or at least, not adapting fast enough. The "minimum crew" rule is their most contentious and costly rule, and it's not the first time producers have balked against it.

A number of years ago, Richard Aikens decided to produce a series of headliners at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, up in Palm Beach. He'd been producing a similar series at his own space, the Jupiter Theater. The thought was rather than close the theater to put in a week of a headliner, when he could run a show and rent a space to do a headliner?

The act was Buddy Hackett. He needed one microphone and a follow spot. He would work in front of the curtain. No set, no props, the curtain wouldn't even move. IATSE told Aikens that he'd need five stage hands.

To do what? A guy on the spot, ok. A guy backstage to page the curtain, got that. So what are the other three guys doing?

Collecting paychecks. And that was pretty much it.

It's this kind of greed from IATSE that keeps South Florida theater producers from working with them.

Aikens never did go back to the Poinciana, even after he his lease ended at the Jupiter Theater.

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