It’s a First!

Member of Off Broadway League Agrees to Standards

Volume CV, No. 5May, 2005

Mary Donovan

We’ve passed another landmark in our efforts to organize Off Broadway. For the first time, a member of the Off Broadway League has signed 802’s “pink book” – our Off Broadway standards – for a new musical called “Altar Boyz.”

Last winter, Local 802 announced new area standards for commercial Off Broadway productions (see December’s Allegro). The new standards were consolidated into a single pink booklet, making it easy for producers to agree to all of the terms at once.

Since we don’t have an industry-wide contract, each new Off Broadway show must be tracked down and investigated, and we have to bring individual producers to the table. It is a major effort and one of the Theatre Department’s main missions. In this case, “Altar Boyz” took three months to organize.

It was helpful that the musicians in the show were already Local 802 members. Also helpful was the fact that the show was being produced at Dodgers Stages.

The Dodgers have already agreed to adhere to our pink book any time they produce a show. Even though they weren’t the producers in this case, they were able to encourage the producers of “Altar Boyz” to settle with us.

In addition, an employer familiar to Local 802 with whom we have negotiated many contracts over the years is managing “Altar Boyz.”

With all of these factors working for us, this should have been a slam dunk for us at first glance. But it wasn’t.

The theatrical production company and the producer avoided the union until pressure was brought to bear on them. Their problem? As members of the League of Off Broadway Theatre Owners and Producers they did not want to be the first of their organization to sign the pink book. In their minds, acceptance of our area standards is too close to letting Local 802 members have an industry-wide agreement.

Readers may recall that a couple of years ago Local 802 tried for over a year to negotiate with the Off Broadway League to achieve an industry-wide agreement for musicians. The negotiations basically failed because the employer wouldn’t budge on the issue of music preparation.

Although Off Broadway employers are not legally bound to accept the area standards outright, they can, of course, negotiate. But this employer did not seem to want to do that either.

However, after several weeks – and after encouragement from the Dodgers and pressure from us – the employers finally came to the table. An agreement was reached within a couple of hours. They accepted the area standards, and we allowed a slight modification on contractor language.

The negotiation session ended with the employers complimenting Local 802 on getting the area standards out there. The end of the battle seemed imminent and Local 802 once again had achieved an Off Broadway union contract. Or so it seemed.

The contract was mailed to the employer for signature, and several weeks passed. We waited for the returned, signed agreement. We finally received a call. Rather than sign the pink book, the employers offered to re-type it just so that they could sign a contract that was on 8.5 by 11-inch white paper like the old agreements! They obviously thought that signing the pink book was crossing a threshold of some kind.

It was at this point that the union began to seriously consider a demonstration against the employer – and we told them so.

The following day a signed copy of the pink book was hand-delivered to the union.

The final contract not only includes our area standards and a ban on the virtual orchestra machine, most significantly it also accepts our music prep standards.

If you have auditioned for, or been hired to play in, any new musical or reading production, call Principal Theatre Rep Mary Donovan at (212) 245-4802, ext. 156. We can help you achieve the pay and benefits you deserve!