Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Strike is Done!

Tourists visiting NYC in the near-future weeks let out a sigh of relief along with the producers and stagehands of Broadway last night as negotiations came to a conclusion, Campbell Robertson of the New York Times reports (November 29, 2007). Again, the red curtains will be drawn, the music will start up, and the show will go on. But was the near-month of striking worth the estimated $40 million dollar loss to Broadway and the wage loss to the stagehands?

A brief glance at the strike situation would suggest that the strike would not have continued for so long if both the stagehands and the Broadway league did not consider the monetary loss worth their hope of striking victory, but the a closer look at the strike may suggest otherwise. The strike, "the first in the union’s 121-year history, darkened 31 theaters, shuttering 27 shows and one Duran Duran concert" and yet only "350 of the 2,200 active members of the union participated in the walkout." The 350 members who participated in the walkout obviously considered the strike worth their efforts, which the voiced clearly, but what about the 1,850 who did not walk out? Though the stagehands initially unanimously voted for a union strike, they could not have predicted a strike that would continue for a long 19 days. For those who would have wanted to return sooner, they could not without running the risk of being "black-listed" and possibly removed from the union, leaving them without work. They were left without much of a choice, no active voice, and no pay.

As for the Broadway league (which consists of owners and producers), they took many steps to accommodate the union's request in order to end the strike. The league held three marathon negotiation sessions in which it continued to agree to more and more of the union's requests. As Robertson reported, the "officials on the union negotiating committee seemed happy with the terms of the five-year contract" and as well they should be. The union walked away from the negotiations with yearly wage raises "well above the 3.5 percent that the league had been offering."

Unions were created during a time in history where the "little guy's" voice could not be heard and many unjust actions were being taken towards workers by a vast majority of employers. The unions were for the masses, a place where everyone had a voice. Today, most employers see the benefit of having happy workers who are content with how they are being treated, and unions are not nearly as necessary as they used to be. And unfortunately, they sometimes hurt the "little guy" who would like to go back to work without being black-listed. While the masses are rejoicing now that the negotiations have ended, the already-quieted voice of the individual is being drowned out, a price that wasn't worth the cost of the strike.

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