Carnegie Hall and Stagehands Negotiating as Strike Enters Second Day
Update, 3:26 p.m., Oct. 3: The union strike is over according a spokesperson from Carnegie Hall. Contract negotiations are ongoing.
Update, 2:44 p.m., Oct. 3: Striking workers have left the sidewalks in front of Carnegie Hall as of the time of this update.
Update, 2:41 p.m., Oct. 3: Carnegie Hall has announced that tonight’s performance by the American Symphony Orchestra will go on as scheduled, while talks continue with the stagehand’s union. All other concerts will perform as scheduled, according to a statement from Carnegie Hall.
NEW YORK—The stagehands at Carnegie Hall continued to strike for a second day after an agreement with the venue could not be reached on midnight Oct. 2.
The opening night of Carnegie Hall’s concert season on Oct. 2 was cancelled after contract negotiations between the venue and the stagehands union broke down and the workers went on strike.
The disagreement between the union and the venue is over the union’s demand for jurisdiction over Carnegie Hall’s new education wing set to open in 2014.
According to Carnegie Hall, the stagehands union, Local One, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), whose jurisdiction is tied to performance spaces, has no collective bargaining agreements over any other education spaces in any New York-area musical observatories.
Carnegie Hall offered the union, in which some stagehands earn more than $400,000 a year, a contract with wage and benefit increases in addition to continued jurisdiction over Carnegie Hall and equitable access to the new education wing. The union decided to strike, effectively rejecting the proposal.
“We are disappointed that, despite the fact that the stagehands have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry, they are now seeking to expand their jurisdiction beyond the concert hall and into the new Education Wing in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall’s education mission,” Clive Gillison, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, stated in a press release.
Carnegie Hall’s previous agreements with Local One never included jurisdiction over the education wing. Other unionized employees are currently performing work on the education wing. A statement from the concert hall charges that Local One wants to displace those employees.
“Acceptance of the union’s demands would not only restrict education work within the new spaces, it would divert significant funds from the Hall’s music education program and into stagehand fees,” according to a statement from Carnegie Hall.
A total of five stagehands work at Carnegie Hall earning an average of $420,000 a year. The top earner, Dennis O’Connell, earned $464,632 in 2011, according to a tax return embedded below. Only two people in the entire company at the time earned more: the chief financial officer and the executive director.
Stagehands move equipment in and out of the hall and operate lights and sound equipment.
Employees on the picket lines north and west of Carnegie Hall said they were instructed not to speak with the press because the union has a record of negative press coverage, a union representative said.
Union members chanted, “No contract, no show,” in front of the main entrance to the venue.
A leaflet distributed by union members to passers-by stated that the union is not seeking to displace any workers in the education wing, and seeks to perform the same work there as they now perform in the rest of the concert hall.
“It is hard for our members to understand how the Carnegie Hall Corporation is willing to spend over $230 million renovating its historic building in Manhattan, but they are not choosing to acknowledge the work that we perform after 60 years of service,” the union’s leaflet reads.
According to a spokesperson from Carnegie Hall and union members outside the venue, negotiations are ongoing as of 11:55 a.m. The union president, James Claffey Jr., is expected to make an announcement when there is a break from the negotiations inside Carnegie Hall.
A performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and featuring violinist Joshua Bell was cancelled as the union went on strike on Oct. 2.
The Philadelphia Orchestra instead performed a free show for a lucky crowd at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall in Philadelphia.Visitors were invited to show up in casual dress and fill the seats on a first-come-first-serve basis. The 75-minute concert was family-friendly with no intermission. Musicians also dressed casually.
According to a statement from Carnegie Hall, future shows, including the Oct. 5 performance by the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra are not cancelled.