It started a few seasons ago as an experiment. How could Local 802 facilitate negotiations with the many commercial producers of Off Broadway musicals? Every new contract covered the same basic issues over and over with each new employer. But an attempt to negotiate a blanket agreement with the League of Off Broadway Producers ended inconclusively when some producers balked at setting rates for music preparation.
Principal Theatre Rep Mary Donovan and the rank-and-file members of the Small Theatres Committee decided to create a wish list of items to include in Off Broadway contracts.
This wish list was envisioned as a unified set of standards that could be presented in booklet form, replacing copied and stapled contract pages with a professional pamphlet akin to the Broadway “blue book.”
The result was Local 802’s “pink book,” first issued in 2004. Its formal name is Local 802’s Commercial Off Broadway Area Standards, and it’s worked so well a new version will appear this August.
Other unions have used similar techniques in situations like ours. For instance, building and construction trades do not have an agreement with every shop. Instead, they have established a set of area standards for wages and working conditions. As successive employers agree to these proposed standards, they become the de facto standard.
802 does this kind of pattern negotiating in the single engagement field, where we deal with the employer before we know who is in the specific bargaining unit. The union, with the participation of the single engagement committee, works out a collective bargaining agreement with prospective employers. (In fact, the union’s existing single engagement contract served as an inspiration for the pink book.)
You may already be familiar with this pamphlet if you’ve worked Off Broadway recently. It’s shaped like the Broadway agreement, and under the pink cover the layout looks very similar. The most noticeable difference may be the wage scales, which parallel the Actors Equity model of several tiers based on the number of seats in the house.
The current booklet expires Aug. 15. The new booklet will cover the three years from Aug. 16, 2006 through Aug. 15, 2009, and it includes a 3 percent increase in all wage items. There is space at the top of the booklet and at the end for the employer and union to fill in the blanks. Once it’s signed, it becomes the contract for the show.
It may sound simple, but it took a lot of hard bargaining to get anyone to sign. Employers who were members of the Off Broadway League didn’t want to be the first to use a blanket agreement.
Finally, Dodger Stages agreed to the pink book as a template for musicals at their theatres. “Altar Boyz” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” were the first to be covered. Since then, some 20 shows have signed on under the pink book.
Most recently, a producer for a show at the New Victory Theatre downloaded and signed the agreement without any meetings. The experiment is a success!
For a copy of the pink book, contact Mary Donovan at (212) 245-4802, or view the agreement online in our Wage & Contract Info section.
Frank Lindquist is chair of the Small Theatres Committee.