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Thread: Broadway Musicians Considering Union Strike

  1. #1

    Default Broadway Musicians Considering Union Strike

    Musicians Union Sets Strike Deadline

    Mon Mar 3, 4:59 PM ET *

    By MICHAEL KUCHWARA, AP Drama Writer

    NEW YORK - The union representing Broadway musicians has set a deadline of midnight Thursday for a walkout that would affect virtually every musical on Broadway.

    The union's move came even though theater producers softened their position on minimums — the number of orchestra players required for Broadway shows.

    "This is a huge and dramatic shift in our position," Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers, said Sunday.

    A representative of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians disagreed.

    "The parties continue to be very far apart, and there's not going to be a settlement tonight," Bill Dennison, an assistant to union president Bill Moriarity, said. "We have set a strike deadline for Thursday midnight March 6."

    Dennison said the producers have proposed the number of musicians required for the large Broadway theaters be reduced to seven. The minimums at those large theaters currently range from 24 to 26.

    "The fact that our proposal now includes a minimum number of musicians is final proof that we intend to have live music on Broadway," Bernstein said.

    "Seven, it seems to us, is simply not a commitment to the kind of theater orchestras that Broadway needs and the public expects," Dennison countered.

    The producers originally wanted to do away with minimums altogether, calling them "featherbedding." The union, which currently has about 325 musicians working in 19 musicals, says the minimums are essential to keep live music from disappearing on Broadway.

    Representatives of the union and the league met throughout the weekend in an effort to solve the impasse. The contract between the two groups expired at midnight Sunday.

    The musicians had voted a day earlier to give their union authority to call a strike if necessary against theater producers.

    Last Monday, casts began rehearsing with computer-generated virtual orchestras, which producers vow to use if the musicians walk out. That move prompted Moriarity to call for the strike authorization vote.

  2. #2

    Default Broadway Musicians are Considering Union Strike

    I just heard that the Actors' Equity Union has voted to honor the Local 802 picket lines, stating "We will not perform before virtual orchestras."

    If you want to see a Broadway play, make it a drama.

  3. #3

    Default Broadway Musicians are Considering Union Strike

    It's sad that the producers actually thought of removing the musicians. What joy can you get from a tape? A real orchestra is the best opion.

  4. #4

    Default Broadway Musicians are Considering Union Strike

    Good. *Broadway sucks anyway.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DougGold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    LA, formerly NY

    Default Broadway Musicians are Considering Union Strike

    Broadway Musicians, Producers Reach Deal

    By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer

    NEW YORK - Striking musicians settled a contract dispute with theater producers Tuesday to end a walkout that shut down 18 musicals since Friday, agreeing to a smaller number of musicians in the largest Broadway theaters.

    "We have great news," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "Broadway is no longer dark."

    Both sides said that after four days without the shows, the theaters would reopen Tuesday night. "We went out together, and we're going back together," said union head Bill Moriarity.

    The dispute that led to Friday's strike was over minimums, the smallest number of musicians required for a Broadway orchestra. That figure is set by the size of the theater, with the largest houses currently requiring 24 to 26 musicians.

    The union agreed to reduce the minimum in the 13 largest theaters to 18 or 19 musicians. Although the new contract is for four years, the minimum number will remain in effect for a decade, Moriarity said.

    "While we have made some reductions in the house minimum, we have preserved live Broadway," Moriarity said. "We will continue to provide the best music you will ever hear in your life."

    The two sides bargained for nearly 12 hours through the night at the mayoral mansion. The mayor, citing Broadway's enormous contributions to the city economy, became personally involved in the talks at Gracie Mansion.

    "This was an extremely difficult negotiation," said Jed Bernstein, speaking for the theater owners. "Neither side got everything it wanted."

    The strike began after talks between the League of American Theatres and Producers and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians broke down. When actors and stagehands refused to cross the picket lines, all but one of Broadway's 19 musicals were shuttered.

    The impasse has cost city businesses more than $7 million, with weekend box office losses estimated at another $4.8 million. The losses come at a particularly bad time for a city struggling with high unemployment and massive deficits.

    The producers initially demanded no minimums, then offered seven. They raised that on Friday to 15 for the biggest theaters, but the musicians' union refused the proposal.

    The union feared the loss of minimums, saying that producers are really seeking to slash the number of musicians for economic reasons. Musicians say they need staff minimums to help protect artistic freedom.

    The battle was being waged on already shaky economic ground, said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the city's agency for tourism. He warned of "significant job losses" if the strike is not resolved.

    Broadway's total economic contribution to the city is estimated at more than $4 billion yearly, tourism and theater officials say.

    If there was a bright spot to the strike, it was that tourists and New Yorkers determined to go to the theater turned to off-Broadway shows and non-musical plays not affected by the strike.

  6. #6


    April 14, 2004

    Union and Theater Agree on Use of Virtual Orchestra


    Hours before a planned protest outside one of the largest Off Broadway theaters, the musicians' union reached an agreement yesterday with the theater's owner to allow the use of a so-called virtual orchestra machine, a controversial new synthesizer that was at the heart of last year's Broadway strike.

    David Lennon, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, announced the deal in an impromptu news conference in front of the Variety Arts Theater, on Third Avenue in the East Village, where a crowd of about 100 musicians had gathered for a planned protest. The theater is currently home to a new musical, "The Joys of Sex," which had its first performance - using a virtual orchestra machine - last night.

    The deal will allow shows at the theater to use the machine, which can closely replicate the sound of musicians, but only with union consent. No other Off Broadway theater currently has such an agreement with the union; Broadway producers are banned from using the machine.

    "Local 802 and the Variety Arts have reached a precedent-setting agreement whereby the virtual orchestra machine will not be used without the consent of the union," Mr. Lennon said. "We are allowing this production to go forward, and we are hopeful that this agreement can be used to apply to all other Off Broadway theaters."

    Ben Sprecher, the owner of the Variety Arts and one of the producers of "The Joys of Sex," said: "This was the same deal I offered them four months ago. I always wanted to work out a deal. It was never my intention to replace live musicians."

    Indeed, the agreement followed several months of often contentious negotiations between Mr. Sprecher, who contended that he simply wanted to use the machine to enhance the musical's score, and the union, which sees the machine as a pernicious threat to its members' livelihood.

    This is not the first time the virtual orchestra has been at the center of a dispute. In March 2003, Broadway musicians walked off the job for four days to protest a plan by producers to reduce the number of musicians in every orchestra pit. During the strike, producers threatened to use the virtual orchestra to replace live music, but they never did.

    This time around, the battle was fought Off Broadway, where producers are not bound by any agreement but often do hire union musicians. It marked the latest attempt by the union to prevent the use of the machine anywhere; in February, for example, the union announced a deal with the Opera Company of Brooklyn banning the use of the virtual orchestra in any future production.

    That deal raised the ire of Realtime Music Solutions, a Manhattan company that makes a virtual orchestra machine called Sinfonia. In March, the company filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, against the union, claiming that Local 802 was preventing performing arts companies from using its product. The claim was dismissed, though Realtime has said it will appeal.

    For his part, Mr. Sprecher had repeatedly stressed that the machine was not costing any workers their jobs; the show had three musicians when it played at the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival and still has three at the Variety Arts.

    Both sides can also walk away from the agreement, which lasts through March 2013, with some satisfaction. The union got a deal at a theater where - unlike those on Broadway, where all musicians are union members - its ability to protest the Sinfonia is limited. And for Mr. Sprecher, the deal means the show will go on without disruption.

    Perhaps the most relieved players in the dispute were the players themselves. One, Steven Watkins, who controls the Sinfonia for "The Joys of Sex," said he thought the machine was a useful tool, but not something that would ever replace musicians.

    "It's the same way you wouldn't want a player piano to replace a piano player," Mr. Watkins said. "If people were happy with player pianos, my job would have been eliminated years ago."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    Fairfax, VA


    Here's a thought...just give the unions every single thing they want, period. $500 an hour salary? No problem. Five people to install a 60 watt light bulb? Sure! Stub your toe, and go out on 45 day worker betcha.

    And then here's what will happen: the Broadway theaters will CLOSE as nobody will be able to afford $3000 seats. Go ahead -- make my day. Go on strike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member 718Bound's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Long Island :('til summer


    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    Here's a thought...just give the unions every single thing they want, period. $500 an hour salary? No problem. Five people to install a 60 watt light bulb? Sure! Stub your toe, and go out on 45 day worker betcha.
    I think these unions should have to pay the wages for other workers in the industry who cannot work and earn income because of their strike. You think landlords care that John or Jane Doe who works in the theatre serving popcorn cannot pay their rent because the stage hands deserve to be treated better!?! Probably not.

    Strikes, strikes, Strikes... Whats next? Oh I can see it now a wait staff strike

  9. #9
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post

    Five people to install a 60 watt light bulb? Sure! Stub your toe, and go out on 45 day worker compensation...
    What do either of those silly comments have to do with Broadway Technicians going on strike?

    A cornerstone of US Labor has always been: A Days Work for A Days Pay.

    Unions allow work to be divied up into 2 hour blocks, but Producers want more (or I should say less) ...

    Broadway Producers now want to hire workers piecemeal -- 30 minutes here, 1 hour there.

    No doubt the hard-working and Producers' work days are always completely filled with solid work from start to finish

    But consider if your boss said, "Bob, from 11:30 to 11:50 you didn't really do anything, so you're not getting paid for that time. And from 1:00 until 1:35 it was really slow. No pay for that either. Then there was that stretch from 3:15 until a little after 4 where the stuff your team was working on probably could have been done by a couple of fewer workers -- so we're not paying you for that either."

    This is to a degree what is going on with the Broadway work contracts.

    Sounds good, eh?

  10. #10


    In a Utopian world where everyone had the month to month money to strike I believe everyone on Broadway should go on the picket line. Producers and other backers have destroyed what was once Broadway for the almighty dollar. Canned music, ignoring the crafts of the people that make the shows possible, etc. If things keep going the way they are in ten years Broadway will be like SciFi channel's original movies.

  11. #11
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    Pretty much on the mark ^ at least as far as musicals go

  12. #12
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003


    But, which is worse.

    Canned fluff?

    Or the fact that it makes a lot of money?

    It is my common argument for a lot of things. Is it bad that things like this do occur, but I find it worse that people, as a majority, support it.

    From WalMart to "authentic" mexican like Chipotle. We lose more and more individuality because of what the "average" consumer wants.

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