Thursday, October 3, 2013
We don't get to use our Labor Contracts category very often on this blog, so a story in today's New York Times was welcome news, even if it isn't very happy news. According to the Times, stage hands at Carnegie Hall (right) have gone on strike to protest a decision by Carnegie Hall that the stagehands union will not participate in a new educational wing to be 0pened next year.
The strike seems to have caught Carnegie Hall off-guard, as it forced the cancellation of this year's opening gala event, which was the feature the Philadelphia Orchestra, Joshua Bell and other liminaries of the classical music world. The Philadelphia Orchestra, by the way, decided to play for free at its usual home, the Verizon Center, which despite its crass, corporate name, is an absolutely spectacular concert venue. Last year's opening gala raised $2.7 million for the Hall.
The problem, of course, is that the stagehands are expensive. The Times claims that their average compensation comes out to $400,000 a year, but that can't be right -- nobody can live in New York City on only $400,000 a year. In any case, Carnegie Hall claims that it can rely on far cheaper union workers in its educational wing, because, e.g., moving pianos around for educational purposes is completely different from moving pianos around for theatrical purposes.
Carnegie employs only five full-time stagehands, but each of them earned more last year than the Hall's finance director. This same union shut down Broadway for over two weeks in 2007. Nobody is predicting how long it will be before one hears nothing in Carnegie Hall louder than a pin drop.