Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where are we now?

People keep saying to me: “Aren’t you excited about the lockout? You’ll finally have something exciting to write about!” UMMMM… yeah, no. Covering a lockout or a strike is not exciting, it’s tedious and tiring. I just thought I’d get that out there.

So where are we now? Well, what I hear is meeting tomorrow. From all appearances this is sort of a Last Stand at Sardi’s. If there isn’t significant progress made, lockout Friday.

What does this all mean? I was at a Local One gathering yesterday (I am very equal opportunity and totally would have gone to a League gathering, had I not been afraid of being physically removed that is) and there was a lot of strong talk. A bunch of things were said against League Executive Director Charlotte St. Martin who has put her name on a bunch of strong anti-Local One statements and many see as having no knowledge of how the theater industry works. Note, though I did not say anything yesterday, I do not believe Charlotte St. Martin has had anything to do with these negotiations—I think she’s just sticking her name on things, as the public face of the League. But, regardless… Let me say, I don’t think the union folks are in a very flexible mood. And they have the advantage at this point.

I did back down and read the Bloomberg article. I wasn’t happy I had. This wasn’t written by Boroff, but, in my opinion, it was not solid journalism. I believe it was sourced by people on only one side of the aisle. By just crediting those folks as “two people involved in the negotiations” and not “two producers” or something of the like, it made it seem like a more balanced report than I think it actually was. I don’t think there was really a big “yield” on Thursday night. I think what happened was like “OK, you can hire less people like you want, but you need to give us giant theater masks in platinum and diamonds.” Of course, that is not EXACTLY what I’ve heard, but you get the idea. There were some foreseeable advantages to portraying the union as if they were truly buckling--I don’t think any of those panned out (and I actually think the move may have backfired), but it was a respectable try.

OK, I’ve complained about that enough all day today, let’s move on to what position I see the producers being in as of now. If there is a lockout, they appear evil and lose lots of money. If they go back to the table and back down from their tough “final offer” stance they seem weak. So it’s sort of a no-win for them unless the union totally buckles. (In my ideal world, there would be some sort of "does anyone think we can spike their drinks?" discussion going on.)

You know, one thing the producers have going for them is, if Manny Azenberg went to someone on the street and said: “Hey, they make us hire 10 people even if we only need 6” a bunch of people would totally think, “That is completely unfair.” I tried to explain it to my grandparents today and my grandmother said: “Unions are inflexible. This is what makes the theater so expensive!” I’m sure if the producers went to every person and appeared charming (hopefully they’d know to only send the nice ones, there are nice ones) and explained their side, they’d get a lot of converts. Sadly though, they aren’t going to do that. Instead, normal folk will get the story from the media and that story will be that they are locking good, hard-working people out of their jobs; that they don’t want to pay the other unions who did show up to work.

I have spoken to 4 producers in the last 2 hours and they all know they are in trouble. Much more than all the public perception crap I just droned on about, they fear their shows closing if there is a lockout. Meanwhile, the union people I speak to think, “Hey, if this doesn’t work out tomorrow, whatever.” Those attitudes show something.

Again, time will tell. I always opt for the show will go on, but I honestly can’t decide what will happen. I’m confused. I don’t know much—-I know very little about what the actual points and terms are at this juncture. So I can only share with you limited observations. Like the rest of you, I look forward to reading a Times story with the details. Hopefully on my way to a Broadway show.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not like we're powerless. Tell the League not to shut down Bway just to increase their profit margins.
To contact the League of American Theatres and Producers, you may call 212.764.1122 or e-mail them at

League President Charlotte St. Martin's e-mail address is

Director of communications for the League is Alan Cohen at