Stagehands Striking at Carnegie Hall Average More Than $419,000 Per Year

Categories: Carnegie Hall

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Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall's opening gala--its biggest fundraising night of the year--was supposed to take place Wednesday evening. The black tie event benefiting the non-profit's artistic and education programs would have included performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Grammy Award-winners Joshua Bell and Esperanza Spalding.

Earlier this week though, patrons found a note on Carnegie Hall's website explaining the performance had been called off. "This concert has regrettably been cancelled due to a strike by Carnegie Hall's stagehands, represented by IATSE / Local One (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees)."

It was the first strike in Carnegie Hall's history.

The non-profit's five full-time stagehands are among its eight highest-paid employees. Each of them takes home more money than Carnegie Hall's director of administration, development director, and director of finance.

Carnegie Hall does employ more stagehands, we're told, part time and on an as-needed basis. It's unclear how many part time stagehands Carnegie Hall employs every year, or what kind of salaries they are paid. The union has not responded to multiple inquiries from the Voice.

The fact that they command such high salaries is exactly why Carnegie Hall wants to keep the union out of its new educational wing--the crux of the disagreement that prompted Wednesday's strike.

Local 1's president, James Claffey, Jr., said in a statement, "Carnegie Hall Corporation continued for 13 months to fail to acknowledge the traditional and historic work that we perform, and after no significant progress, we found it absolutely necessary to take action to protect the members that we represent."

The new wing, management argues, isn't part of the union's territory, and using Local 1's members for work in that part of Carnegie Hall will jack their costs up way too high.

"We are disappointed that, despite the fact that the stagehands have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry, they are now seeking to expand their jurisdiction beyond the concert hall and into the new education wing in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall's education mission," Carnegie Hall's executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson told the New York Times.

Gillinson himself is Carnegie Hall's highest-paid employee, with a base salary of $864,928, and additional compensation worth $224,591. Add in benefits, and in 2012, Gillinson took home a total of $1,113,571. But he's the only person in the entire non-profit that makes more money than every stagehand.

Here is a full list of Carnegie Hall's highest paid employees, according to the non-profit's 990, with union stagehands in bold. (Believe it or not, these salaries are actually after pay cuts in recent years.)

2. Dennis O'Connell, Properties Manager: $464,632
3. James Csollany, Carpenter:$441,223
4. Richard Matlaga (Chief Financial Officer, not listed on Carnegie Hall's staff website): $429,259
5. John Cardinale, Electrician: $425,872
6. Aaron Levine, Chief Information Officer: $406,048
7. John Goodson, Electrician: $395,207
8. Ken Beltrone, Carpenter: $371,813
9. Anna Weber, General Manager, Artistic and Operations: $368,255
10. Susan Brady, Development Director: $317,110
11. Richard Malenka, Director: $315,277
12. Theodore E. Phillips, Director of Finance: $259,812

Carnegie Hall's full 990 on the next page

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52 comments
j.swails
j.swails

@stifkittenNon-theatrical people don't understand what those job titles mean. In the theatrical world, "Carpenter" (properly, the Master Carpenter) is not a guy who pounds nails into wood. The Master Carpenter is the boss of the entire stage crew - effectively "upper management". Would it sound better if the job was titled "Executive Director of Stage Operations"? Because that's what the job actually is.

Same with "electrician" - the Master Electrician would be titled "Chief Technical Officer" in any other profession, because he or she is in charge of all technical operations, including lights, sound, communications, video and in today's theaters, computer technology. The Properties Master is responsible for every piece of equipment the theater owns. Would "Executive Inventory Controller" spark less outrage?

The problem is that theatrical workers still follow the traditional names of the theater world. (As does the film industry - ever wonder why they still call the Master Electrician's first assistant the "Best Boy" in the movie credits? Does anyone outside the trade know what a "gaffer" is? Or a "rigger?" These job titles are leftovers from the days when stagehand jobs were typically filled by sailors, who knew how to run ropes and pulleys, how to build special wooden devices, etc. and they carried the job titles with them.)

I'm shocked that a paper like the Village Voice doesn't know this, or chooses to ignore it for the sake of sensationalism.

Someone brought up the minimum number of stagehands that a union requires the theater management to hire for a show. The reason for those rules is that management would rather require that the visiting artist supply non-union workers, and are always trying to cut the number of stagehands down to the bare minimum they can. For example, they would rather have three stagehands each having to carry 100 pound loads instead of hiring enough workers so they can double up and carry 50 pounds each. This is a matter of workplace safety.

 AND... in the theater, there are no delays. If you hire someone to build a house, and they finish the job two hours later than you wanted, it's no big deal. In the theater, a two hour delay means a cancelled show, a few thousand ticket refunds and a destroyed reputation for the theater company. This is why the union insists on hiring enough workers to get the job SAFELY done on time, and then some.

Because a stage is a dangerous place. I myself witnessed a rigger (those are the guys who run the pulleys that flies everything in and out of a stage, from curtains to actors in Spiderman costumes) plunge to his death on a stage. I was nearly electrocuted on a stage once. In the theater where I work there is a memorial display on the stage wall with the names of stagehands who have DIED on the job in accidents. (Do you think a hedge fund office has the same thing?) A rigger died on the Spiderman show, which only got covered because of all the negative publicity surrounding the production. But serious injuries happen more often than people know.
 

One other thing: most stagehands, union or not, don't work a regular 40 hours per week. They make a high hourly wage, but the average stage hand works maybe 20-30 hours a week. And often consists of 12-16 hour shifts, to get the show unloaded and installed (and then taken down and reloaded) in the few days between shows at a busy theater like Carnegie.

Now, none of this is to say that these people aren't overcompensated, maybe they are. They've probably spent 40-50 years of their lives on the same job and got a lot of seniority, including the non-stage employees in that list making the same kind of money. But they aren't the ones being printed in bold.

For the sake of disclosure, I am a union stagehand (not IATSE, my theater is organized by CWA.) Which is why I know these things. It is unlike any other craft profession on earth. I only wish the VV editors would provide some of the background information as part of the story.

Oh, and I don't make anywhere near that kind of money.


Professor_Plum
Professor_Plum

To the outraged readers of the Voice:

You're reacting as though these folks are overpaid CEOs or bankers. They are, in fact, hourly workers. They are by-and-large blue-collar. They're at that theatre nearly every day of every year, and put in sometimes double the amount of hours in a given week of someone in an office/admin position.

The story, as written, doesn't paint an accurate enough picture of this labor action to warrant all the bleating below. Note that Local One picketed Carnegie Hall -- it's not simply the five guys on the house crew who went on strike. It would appear that the union is protecting the jurisdiction--and this labor action's waves are felt all over town in every theatre where the IA represents the workers.

If you want to express outrage, do it toward cities and municipalities that are drastically underpaying their teachers and cops. A nasty gleefulness at the "outings" of the house crew is willful ignorance of the labor movement in this country, and the larger picture. You want to know the names of these guys? Buy a ticket and go attend a concert. They're in the Playbill.....

stifkitten
stifkitten

When I grow up I want to a millionaire.  I think I will go into carpentry or working in a theatre so I can make 400 K a year.  No wonder this country is quickly going down the toilet.  We pay the stage hands more than we pay cops and teachers.  The end is near, folks. :)

clarksbrother
clarksbrother

I had a chance (very recently) to work in an IATSE shop out in L.A. making very good money. Part of the reason I turned it down was for tactics they take like this. I'm all for protecting workers rights, but all too often people like this give unions a bad name. 

stifkitten
stifkitten

THAT IS EFFING INSANE!  I am so glad they posted their names.  Those people should be ashamed of themselves.  If you make that kind of sick money being a carpenter or electrician, you should shut up and hide your money....because when the rest of the world finds out....boy oh boy.  Goes to show, money and brains rarely reside in the same place.

smokeandlights
smokeandlights

These individuals have years of service, Years of HIGHLY technical training, and are responsible for the lives of every person on that stage. They are leaders. They also work at a world class facility. These are cream of the crop. Average theatre stagehands are hard workers who live paycheck to paycheck and strive for many years to get positions that pay one quarter of these salaries.

benbrodsky
benbrodsky

@jbarro also, it appears the Carnegie Hall director is a House Republican: “One thing we cannot do is compromise,” he said...

SilvestriWoman
SilvestriWoman

@jbarro Have you ever seen a stagehand work? Ass-busting work-tougher than a Wall Street financier!

yisjtinsc
yisjtinsc

THIS IS GREAT - UNIONS ARE GREAT - THE CITY OF MY BIRTH WILL WIND UP LIKE DETROIT !

THANK GOD THE SUPER RICH PROGRESSIVES ARE SPENDING THEIR INHERITED $$$$ ON  SUCH DESERVING FOLKS.

WHEN THEY RETIRE THEY WILL BE HEADING TO FLORIDA. TAKING THEIR  $$$$, TO THE SUNSHINE STATE - NO INCOME TAX. SUCKERS !


YISJTINSC

anonymous
anonymous

I fucking hate unions so much.  

gold
gold

Let the union alone.  Better to shut the place down, totally down and gone, then take one step back for the union.  Long live unions - and shut up and pay the ticket price.  Brad Pitt makes 2o mm per film. The union comes first and always first.  back off.

Gus Anderson
Gus Anderson

So that's why tickets to an event there cost me three days wages.

Meredith Lidstone
Meredith Lidstone

I'd be happy making 400k to sweep the stage and set up music stands. Props is tops :)

Peter Staley
Peter Staley

What's next? An op/ed saying why unions should be busted? Get lost ...

Meredith Lidstone
Meredith Lidstone

I think every stagehand in Local 1 and elsewhere wishes they were the head props guy making 400k , lol. These days, they're not going to get much sympathy with that story popping up so often.

Ty Hardman
Ty Hardman

Thinking about switchin companies lmao Eric L Council Ron Williams Ish Allen Stephen Afasano Jay Threepeeoh

sean196777
sean196777

@Professor_Plum No. I don't care how many hours they work. It's ridiculous for someone to be paid over $400K when his  job is simply to follow orders and do manual labor. Even more ridiculous is for that person to complain about anything and then go on strike. These one percenters hit the blue-collar lottery and their going on strike is a sham and a travesty. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Professor_Plum
Professor_Plum

@clarksbrother I think, actually, that you misunderstand what labor unions can -- and do -- do. If you turned down good money as a political stance, good for you, but I don't see how you can reconcile your stated position of "protecting workers rights," and the anti-union nonsense you've written.

stifkitten
stifkitten

shut the hell up.  Cops and teachers make pennies compared to these guys.  I'd shut that theatre down. Carnegie or not.  Lay everyone off and hire 50 people based on one of those salaries. NO CARPENTER OR ELECTRICIAN IS WORTH A HALF MILLION BUCKS A YEAR.  What the hell are you smokin?

dabble53
dabble53

@smokeandlights Carpenter? Highly technical training? Property manager - highly technical training? If you think these jobs demonstrate "highly technical training", what do you call the training in school and at work that engineers get? Get real.

stifkitten
stifkitten

For 400 k a year, I'd make myself invisible too.  This is insane to the rest of America.  Shut the place down.  Fire everyone.  Join the real world and start over Carnegie Hall. 

gold
gold

The easy solution is for NY to tax all those leaving NY. You can do it from voter registration. A 50% exit tax would be fair. Just take it. No one should be allowed to leave NY without paying up, especially the upstaters. Make them all pay.  You leave, you pay.  No more fleeing to FL, TX, etc.  In fact, NY should impose an income tax on people in FL and lower the taxes in NY. NY can seize all trucks and cars that have FL tags, and grab money from the banking system for FL acconts the way the IRS grabs  Swiss assets.  It's only fair. And only union labor should be legal in NY - no others.

Grendel
Grendel

@Peter Staley this union should be busted....and I'm pro union.

clarksbrother
clarksbrother

@Professor_Plum @clarksbrother There was more to my decision than that, but it did factor in. I have no problems with Unions collectively bargaining or working towards better treatment or pay for those that they represent. I think that's a noble goal and effort to undertake. What I take exception to are practices that stifle progress in the name of "make-work", holding employers hostage or preventing those who make the conscious decision to not join a union from working in the first place. I have NO problem with unions striking in the name of fair treatment or fair wages. That being said, I've personally experienced all that I've mentioned above. The only thing that's colored my opinion nowadays is my personal experiences. I also take exception to the "anti-union nonsense" quote. I in fact often support unions in pursuit of fair pay and fair treatment.

I treat each encounter on its own merits, this particular case as mentioned in the story is a good example of abuses that some (certainly not all) unions undertake to get their way or to accrue power. 

smokeandlights
smokeandlights

@stifkitten

"shut the hell up."

very mature response. Good start.

"Cops and teachers make pennies compared to these guys."

Yes they do, and no they shouldn't. But local government fund misappropriation has NOTHING to do with Carnagie Hall's staff.

"NO CARPENTER OR ELECTRICIAN IS WORTH A HALF MILLION BUCKS A YEAR."

I'm willing to bet there are many more than you think in the top of their field making this much. Also, please watch this: http://youtu.be/0NwEFVUb-u0 . If we keep undervaluing skilled trades in favor of higher education, the plumbers, electricians, and carpenters of today will be the doctors and lawyers of tomorrow. 

"What the hell are you smokin?"

Again, nice touch... very classy.

smokeandlights
smokeandlights

@dabble53 @smokeandlights Unless you know what those positions actually entail, you can't speak to the training required. The job titles in this profession are generalizations, not specific duties.

I am not by any means saying that every stagehand in the business should be paid at these levels. In terms of your engineer reference, these positions would be comparable to a partner in an engineering firm in terms of their years of experience, knowledge, and abilities in the given subject. I am willing to wager that at a World class engineering firm, a partner would clear several million a year. So lets compare apples to apples. 

clarksbrother
clarksbrother

@Professor_Plum @clarksbrother 
I'd be happy to elaborate. I was speaking on a broader basis rather than specifically about Local One. In terms of the terms, I used, here are a couple examples I have personally experienced in the last year alone:
1) "Make-Work" - Unions requiring that more people than necessary be hired to complete a job for more hours than necessary to complete a job. For instance, 6 people where 2 people would be required (and actually did) complete the job for a term of 12 hours (where the actual work could and was completed in 6 hours).

2) "Holding Employers Hostage" - In this case, I think Local One is exhibiting this action specifically. The strike they are undertaking is not due to poor working conditions, unfair wages, bad benefits or anything of that nature. It's about trying to expand their jurisdiction into another enterprise that they do not yet have control over. To do this, they are striking in another area in an attempt to force their current employer to further expand union jurisdiction over enterprises which do not yet exist. I think that's a pretty good example - they're not fighting for fair treatment, they're fighting to expand power. 

Fair treatment is a relative notion, but to give you an example, if someone you knew performed an act that was morally dubious, you certainly wouldn't continue to support their actions, would you? The same would seem to apply to unions, if they were to undertake actions that are morally or legally dubious, would you still support them in the same manner you did before?

As to your last point, in the case of Local One, I think the argument regarding these laborers being under-compensated is at best, laughable.  

Professor_Plum
Professor_Plum

@clarksbrother @Professor_Plum Fair enough, but perhaps you can elaborate on "make-work," "holding employers hostage" and the "abuses" Local One committed in this job action? 

I don't know what your experience was on the coast, but I have plenty of experience with folks coming into a union environment with a massive chip on their shoulder. They generally aren't the first on the hire list -- not because of their card status, but more because they bring an unwelcome agenda to the work.

Is it possible that you assume there were abuses when in fact, the actual story of the actual points of difference between the union and management are not clear from the outside?

Isn't it possible that "fair treatment" is a relative notion? If someone "supports" workers only as far as their own definitions hold sway, well, that's not really support is it? 

You may of course take exception. While doing so, you might consider the disconnect between "I support workers' right to collectively bargain" and the use of the phrase "holding employers hostage." It's anti-union language. One man's hostage-taker is another man's fairly compensated laborer.

dabble53
dabble53

@smokeandlights @dabble53 My comment was about smokeandlights declaring these individuals as having high technical training (presumably because of their position.) My comment was that there is nothing to even imply that these individuals have any technical training at all, let alone HIGH levels of it. If, as you really postulate, they are paid highly because of their managerial/supervisory skills, fine - but that was not my comment.

A partner in an engineering firm may or may not even have training in an engineering field. They receive high compensation because of their managerial/business accumen (the C-levels) or just because they own a portion of the company.

Being an engineer, I can tell you from experience that some partners are competent engineers, and others I wouldn't trust to engineer a roll of toilet paper. They all got paid big bucks. But in terms of actual engineers, in a position where they (very competently) applied their engineering skills and training, they never were paid anywhere near the levels these storied stagehands are paid.

So by all means, let's make sure the apples you want to compare, are actually apples.

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