Since this article was written, Local 802 has learned that the Nederlander’s production of Reefer Madness is closing on Sunday, October 28. The Organizing Department thanks everyone who joined the union’s rallies and everyone who called the Nederlanders to protest their discrimination against union musicians.
Local 802 is urging the public to boycott the off-Broadway production Reefer Madness, currently in performance at the 499-seat Variety Arts Theatre. The union will be spreading this message to the community around the Third Avenue theatre, as well as to a broader off-Broadway theatre audience.
The show’s producers, who include the Nederlander Organization, began putting the production together in New York City in late August. They deliberately screened out known union members in the process of hiring a five-member band. Those hired include a music director who worked the show in Los Angeles, David Manning, two NYU students, and musicians from nonunion touring shows. Local 802 has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
After initially offering wages (and no benefits) far below the standards achieved by the union in other off-Broadway theatres, the producers dramatically increased wages and are now offering a minimal benefit package. They are, however, still undercutting area standards in the off-Broadway field.
Assistant to the President Bill Dennison pointed out that, “over the last several weeks, there has been an unprecedented level of cooperation among unions, producers and theatre-owners to keep shows open during this difficult period in our city – both on and off Broadway. This cooperative effort has apparently meant nothing to the Nederlanders,” Dennison told Allegro. “They have thumbed their nose at the union and denied these young musicians in Reefer Madness any access to important union benefit programs.”
Despite disastrous reviews in most of the media and continuing losses, Reefer Madness was still running as this issue went to press. The union’s message to potential ticket buyers across the city includes a call to boycott this unionbusting production – and a list of the off-Broadway shows currently running that have union contracts for both the cast and the orchestra.