Broadway could be facing a very unhappy holiday season.
Union 32BJ, which represents hundreds of Broadway workers such as janitors, porters, elevator operators, and bathroom attendants, have voted to authorize its leaders to call a strike if a new contract isn’t approved by the expiration of their current agreement on December 30. The union, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, is seeking better pay and health benefits for its workers.
The authorization came after a voice vote at a rally held on Wednesday outside the offices of the Broadway League on Seventh Avenue. Any strike would affect workers at 32 of Broadway’s 40 theaters, including those owned by the Shubert, Nederlander, and Jujamcyn organizations, as well as the Circle in the Square Theatre. The eight other Broadway theaters, including those owned by Disney, have different union arrangements.
Among the union’s demands are that health coverage should begin as soon as employees start work, instead of waiting up to 10 weeks as stated by the current contract. So far, negotiations with the Broadway League have not resulted in an agreement. In a statement, the League’s Executive Director, Charlotte St. Martin, said: “We have had several days of productive negotiations and have several more scheduled. The Broadway League, and the members we represent, look forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ.”
Another bargaining session between the League and Union 32BJ is scheduled for Friday, December 14 and another is set for Tuesday, December 18. There has been no word if other Broadway unions would also join the strike.
In late 2007, Broadway stagehands held a strike that lasted 19 days, which affected over two dozen shows and cost the city over $35 million in lost revenue.