Is now the best time for this?

According to this New York Times article, Local 1 made a move on The Joyce Theater this week, in an attempt to organize and unionize the stagehands at the 472 seat theater in Chelsea.

Now, I’m not a Press Agent, but . . . in 2009, in the midst of the current economic crisis, with non profits closing their doors almost as fast as car dealerships, and with staff members all over the world making sacrifices to keep their jobs (including the employees of the NY Times), and with the NEA reporting double-digit rates of decline in arts-related attendance, does this seem like the right time for a big and powerful union to try to organize a 472 seat theater, home to a modern dance company?
I think if I were leading the Local, I would have held back for awhile.  I’ll admit, I don’t know the status of the Joyce’s finances. Maybe they are in a position to afford the Local?  Maybe the Local has agreed that the organization wouldn’t cost them a penny more than they are currently paying?
But it certainly seems a bit odd, doesn’t it?
Let me be clear, I am a member of two performing arts unions, and I believe that without a doubt our union workers, on and off the stages, in the pits and in the dressing rooms, are the best in the biz.  The problem is, the “best” come at a premium, as they should.
Whether that premium can be afforded in all places is another matter altogether.
  • Guy Yedwab says:

    Um. Well. I’m a little confused about your surprise. It’s particularly in hard times that Unions get fired up, don’t they? The harder things get, the more imperative it feels to workers to defend their benefits… it seems logical, if perhaps negative from the theater’s perspective.

  • JodiSC says:

    Should be noted and doesn’t appear in TIMES article. The Joyce used to be union. It is one of the only organizations to vote them out. So, economy or not, this is not a surprise.
    I just hope what is best for the organization and its employees can be resolved without too much difficulty.
    It is a great organization and does a lot for dance in NYC.

  • Richard says:

    Follow the money.
    Especially in “The Arts,” concerned parties like to make issues seem about right and wrong. There is no right and wrong in commercial matters. Each side presents as “right” what is in their interest. I could blame the unions in great part for the deterioration of the American economy. Or, I could blame the willingness of Management to go along rather than go the Fountainhead route and just, in the example of Theater, cease creating product. The unions’ greed relies on producers’ greed to keep them going. It’s a symbiotic relationship. When the producers empty their hands and walk away and things are fallow for a couple of seasons, maybe the unions will wake up.

  • Chris says:

    Perhaps you should consider learning a little more about the financial situation before you publish what is, in effect, an attack on the union in general.
    Realistically speaking, what good does it do for any union to force an employer to agree to a contract for employees that will force the employer out of business? How are the employees served by such a deal? And what good does it do the union to bring in more members to support when it must do so (according to your fears, not your logic) by forcing the employer out of business?
    Your analysis of this situation is flawed, uninformed, highly biased, and ultimately harmful as it adds nothing informative to the discussion. This kind of not so subtle, “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” attack is the kind of cowardly rhetoric that does far more harm than good.

  • Paul Roberts says:

    I think the arts consumer will benefit if ‘they get the house’.
    The Joyce, through its renovation campaign, was able visibly show where it stands gracefully on the corner New York’s (& global) Dance and performing arts community.
    A Union contract would help maintain that position by literally protecting the physical plant and demonstrating commitment to professionalism.
    full disclosure:
    I am former IATSE member
    current member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and I publish

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