Stagehands Stop Strike

Arlington Agreement Reached

<strong>Behind the scenes:</strong> Local 422 stagehands set up for a Blues Traveler show at the Arlington in 2007.
Paul Wellman (file)

Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IASTE Local 442) ended their strike of the Arlington Theatre on Wednesday, stating that negotiations between the union and Metropolitan Theater Corporation (MTC), over a disputed labor contract, have ended successfully. The stagehands began picketing the Arlington (the only venue managed by Los Angeles-based MTC that utilizes stagehand labor) last week, and had refused to perform their usual stage work duties until demands for the new contract were met.

Members formed a picket line outside the Arlington on the day of Charlie Rose’s presentation, but decided to not openly protest during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in deference to the spirit of the event.

Local 442 cited a number of issues with the proposed contract — which was slated to replace their old contract with MTC, which expired in February 2009 — pointing to what they characterized as a 14% decrease in pay for most union members. The 65-member, tri-county chapter of the national union also took issue with the designation of a “utility position” written into a side-letter of the contract, which, Local 442 said, was undefined and supposedly left the door open to the hiring of unskilled, non-union labor.

The local chapter had problems as well with a disputed contractual clause that would have allegedly allowed MTC to hire directly as opposed to hiring through the union’s hiring hall. Union members said they worried this would endanger their job security and allow MTC to hire cheaper, out-of-town labor at its discretion.

Erik Moore, vice president of Local 442, said that the union’s gripes were worked out in the agreed-upon contract, and that hiring polices have altered to appease both sides: He said that while Local 442 retains the right to regularly hire through its own hiring hall, it agreed with MTC that if Local 442 cannot provide sufficient labor with 72 hours of any event (after being given 10 days to organize a team), the Arlington can then allegedly hire it’s own outside workforce.

While an official contract has yet to be drafted and signed, an oral agreement was made and a memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of MTC and Local 442 on Wednesday afternoon stating, according to Moore, that the changes to the proposed contract would be included in the newest draft. Wednesday’s live show of Jesus Christ Superstar was worked by an out-of-town company as the contract had not yet been finalized, Moore said.

MTC Chairman and CEO Bruce Corwin had been clearly distressed by the strike, empathizing with local union members and communicating with the media before picketing actually began. “As the past chair of the Southern California Democratic Party, I have always been a strong union supporter and a progressive liberal,” he said in a written letter dated January 12, a few days before the strike officially began. “I personally have never crossed a picket line…I feel terrible about this situation.”

However with the new contract and amicable agreement reached, both sides seem content with the outcome. “We are very pleased that an agreement could be reached with [Local 442],” said MTC’s legal counsel, Allen Gilbert. “We were able to clear up some of the misunderstandings, and both sides are happy with the outcome.” Local 442 reported being equally content with how negotiations wrapped up, apparently harboring no ill feelings. “We would also like to thank the Corwin family and the administration of the Metropolitan Theatre Corporation for their efforts,” Local 442 stated in a press release.

The new contract is effective until June 2011.

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