After year-long negations recently failed between the approximately 65-member-strong tri-county chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Local 442) and the Metropolitan Theatre Corporation (MTC) over the terms of a proposed contract, Local 442 members announced this week that they are going on strike at the Arlington Theatre. Citing what they claim are 14-percent pay cuts across the board — as well as cryptic language in the contract that would allow MTC management “to hire workers for a lower rate without using the union hiring hall” — area union representatives claim that MTC is attempting to dissolve a positive contractual relationship (which expired in February 2009) that has spanned decades. Local 442 vice president Erik Moore and strike leader Tony Mitchell say that the proposed contract is not only vague in its language with regard to hiring policies but “denies union members a livable wage and any form of job security.” Members also provide stagecraft services to a number of area venues, including the Lobero and Granada theatres and the Santa Barbara Bowl. No other locations will see strikes, however, as they aren’t managed by MTC.
Stagehands will begin striking this Saturday during the Charlie Rose presentation and say they will continue to picket through January 20’s Jesus Christ Superstar performance. In the meantime, movies at the Arlington and other MTC theaters will not be affected, as projectionists are bound by a different contract. The Arlington Theatre is the only stage operated by the Los Angeles-based MTC. In response to Local 442’s decision to strike — which was made by a near-unanimous vote of all its members — MTC Chairman and CEO Bruce Corwin stated that he is unsure exactly what Local 442 expects because, as far as he’s concerned, all of the union’s demands were met during negotiations. Corwin says he is baffled by the picket, claiming that national IATSE representatives agreed to the new contract and suggested to Local 442 that it adopt the new terms. “We gave them what they wanted,” said Corwin, citing MTC’s reported ability to work smoothly with unions. “Our record of union support is as strong as the day is long.”