Curtain closes on stagehand strike at Suzanne Roberts Theatre
February 1, 2013By Peter Crimmins
The stagehands of the Philadelphia Theatre Company have ended their strike. Management and the stagehands union negotiated an agreement early Friday morning. The workers ratified it at noon.
For two weeks, the stagehands have been picketing outside the Suzanne Roberts Theatre during the current run of "The Mountaintop." The show about the last days before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated went on without the stagehands, but did not feature some of the technically sophisticated staging that comes at the end of the performance.
"When it first happened and we offered some refunds, there was a bit of a rash of that. That has really leveled off," said artistic director Sara Garonzik. "Some people were frankly waiting for the strike to end to come, and now they're all going to come back. We have enough performances to accommodate them."
The negotiations were difficult because this was the first contract for newly unionized workers; every detail had to be hammered out from scratch. The union said management was stalling, and management said the union was demanding benefits too great for a midsized theater company to provide.
"Some conditions that were picked up that didn't exist in prior contracts were overtime provisions, the union picked up overtime after 8, overtime on holidays," said Michael Barnes, a business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. "In addition, the union picked up benefit contributions for health and welfare, and retirement, that didn't exist in the prior agreement."
Shira Beckerman, the managing director of the theater company, said the final contract is similar to what the company had offered before the stagehands went on strike.
"The Mountaintop" is in production for three more weekends. It will not be extended.