The giant 15-foot inflatable rat looming over the Village Theatre in Greenwich Village scurried away to confront another anti-union employer, after the producers of the off-Broadway show Love, Janis reached agreement with Local 802 on a contract covering musicians working the show.
That contract includes a wage increase, pension and health benefits and job security. It came after a week of demonstrations at the theatre by Local 802 members, their supporters and New York City’s infamous “anti-union” rat.
“We are pleased that a contract could be agreed upon for this show,” Local 802 President Bill Moriarity told Allegro. “The agreement not only protects the musicians working this show – it also protects the enormous progress we have made in the off-Broadway field over the last 10 years.”
Local 802 had contacted the show’s producers, Cullen-Dumas Productions and Martian Entertainment Inc., early this year as they began putting together the New York production. The union’s efforts to negotiate an agreement for the show were rebuffed. 802 soon began hearing from musicians who had auditioned for the show and were being told by management that it was a “nonunion” production. At least two musicians had actually been told they had the gig, only to be informed later that, because they were union members, they were not going to be employed.
UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE
Local 802 immediately filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, asking that these two musicians be re-engaged and that the employer be ordered to bargain with the union. The NLRB began an investigation of the allegations and has subsequently charged the employer with violations of U.S. labor law.
In the meantime, 802 moved into action. Beginning with the first performance on April 10, leaflets were passed out at the theatre informing the public about the mistreatment of musicians and the absence of a union agreement. The giant rat joined the demonstrations and soon became a fixture on Bleecker Street, looming over the theatre entrance.
Support from the public was immediate. Theatregoers were turned away from each performance, many expressing disappointment that the producers of a show about this well-known musical artist would so flagrantly violate the rights of musicians. The city’s labor movement rallied to Local 802’s support, as did the two major Democratic Party clubs in Greenwich Village. Both were preparing to turn out supporters for a demonstration in front of the theatre on the show’s opening night. The agreement came just two days before the official opening performance.