2 October 2013

Striking Stagehands Force Carnegie Hall to Cancel Opening Night Concert

Carnegie Hall announced today that it has been forced to cancel its October 2 opening-night concert owing to a strike by the venue's stagehands, who reportedly are demanding jurisdiction of Carnegie Hall's new education wing.  

The concert, which was to have played in Stern Auditorium, was slated to feature the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, as well as violinist Joshua Bell and vocalist/double bassist Esperanza Spalding. Last year's opening-night gala reportedly raised nearly $2.7 million for Carnegie Hall. The hall reportedly will not reschedule tonight's performance, and patrons who purchased their tickets with credit cards will receive automatic refunds. All additional performances remain on Carnegie Hall's schedule, and they intend to issue daily updates on the resolution of the strike.    

According to a release issued by Carnegie Hall, the work stoppage came after the stagehands belonging to IATSE/Local 1, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, rejected a proposed new agreement that included annual wage and benefit increases and continued jurisdiction throughout Carnegie Hall’s concert venues, in addition to providing additional work opportunities in the newly renovated upper floors of the building. The strike is the first to occur in the history of Carnegie Hall. According to a statement, the union's demand for jurisdiction over Carnegie Hall's newly-established education wing — which is scheduled to open next fall — would undermine the venue's education and community outreach missions. "Acceptance of the union's demands would not only restrict education work within the new spaces, it would divert significant funds away from the Hall's music education programs and into stagehand fees," reads the statement issued by Carnegie. "Local One also demands that Carnegie Hall displace other union employees currently performing maintenance work in the new Education Wing, insisting that stagehands perform this work, which will involve a substantially higher cost." Several of Carnegie Hall's highest paid employees are stagehands, who reportedly earn more than $400,000 annually.

"There is no precedent for this anywhere in New York City," said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall's executive and artistic director.

At contention is Carnegie Hall's claims that IATSE/Local One's fundamental jurisdiction relates solely to performances spaces, and thus the union maintains no collective bargaining arrangements over education spaces in New York-area music conservatories, universities with music education programs, or other local facilities supporting education work. The venue also asserts that its previous agreements with stagehands have never covered spaces in the building's upper floors, where the new education wing is located.

IATSE/Local One and Carnegie Hall have reportedly been in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement since mid-2012, with the stagehands' most recent contract having expired on August 31, 2012. While both Carnegie Hall management and the stagehands' union had agreed to work under the terms of the previous contract during negotiations so as to avoid any disruption to the venue's schedule, the current strike appears to amount to IATSE/Local One's rejection of the proposal.

In light of the cancellation, the Philadelphia Orchestra — which just last year emerged from bankruptcy proceedings — intends play a free concert at Verizon Hall in its hometown. Tonight's concert was to have been broadcast live on WQXR as part of the station's Carnegie Hall Live series; instead, it will broadcast a recording of last season's performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra from Carnegie Hall.  spacer 

More information can be found at Carnegie Hall.

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