Carnegie Hall caves in to stagehands

Carnegie Hall caves in to stagehands


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2013

 IATSE/Local One blacked out the hall on opening night over their members’ right to control furniture movement in the newly created Education Wing,opening next year. The peace agreement, signed today, allows IATSE members ‘limited jurisdiction’ in the new areas.

They get toshift school chairs? At $400,000 a year?

Sound like a climbdown by Carnegie. Press release follows.







(For Immediate Release, New York, NY)—Carnegie Hall today announced that it has reached a new collective bargaining agreement with IATSE/Local One (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). The new agreement includes limited jurisdiction for IATSE/Local One in Carnegie Hall’s newly-created Education Wing in ways that will enable Carnegie Hall to create a flexible, hands-on learning environment for activities serving students, young artists, and teachers, ensuring that the institution can meet all its education objectives.

“Carnegie Hall is very pleased to reach this new agreement with IATSE/Local One, one that meets all of our institution’s education needs as we work toward fulfilling the potential of our new spaces in Carnegie Hall’s Education Wing,” said Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall’s Education Wing will house new spaces dedicated to the Hall’s expanding music education and community programming. Located within the existing upper floors of Carnegie Hall’s building, it is scheduled to open in fall 2014.


  • Brian says:

    The jurisdiction is more than limited. They’re going to hire a dedicated IATSE stagehand for the education wing and the other hands can work there too. Local One is a powerful union.

  • Rick says:

    Uh, no Norman. It’s a new contract with a new employee. Do you imagine that he will be also required to work an average of 60 hours a week month in and month out? Does your characterization of ‘caving in’ fit with the press release’s happiness with the deal? No on both counts.

    • Jr says:

      Are they REQUIRED to work 60 hours, or do they demand the overtime? It’s hard to believe Carnegie wouldn’t prefer to have more people at non-ludicrous wages.

      • ” It’s hard to believe Carnegie wouldn’t prefer to have more people at non-ludicrous wages.”

        As has been mentioned by others, there are many times when it’s advantageous to not change horses in midstream.

  • Most of them don’t get $400K, and the ones who do make that much do so because management schedules them for a considerable amount of overtime.

    Not that that will stop — or even slow down — the union-haters or the snobs.

    • anonbari says:

      Agreed. The anti-union and anti-stagehand talk is really surprising. It is not easy nor always safe to work backstage at a busy theater space. Union representation exists for these people for a reason.

    • Paul D. Sullivan, MA. says:

      I agree Jeffrey!

      Didn’t the article Norman posted say that one man made $ 400,000 and the other 4 guys made less? The fact of the matter is that only 12.4 % of the U.S. workforce is unionized and of that only some 7.2% work in the private sector (the remainder work in the public sector). Oh my, big scary greedy unions destroying the country; what rubbish!

      • JR says:

        No, the AVERAGE pay is over $400K. (See New York Times, Oct 4)

        This is not about unionizing Walmart, this is about the 1% pretending to be regular working people, when what they are is, like a lot of top executives, paid way too much.

        • “when what they are is, like a lot of top executives, paid way too much.”

          So someone who has noidea what the job entails assumeshe understandsthe job and presumes to opine on what it’s worth.

          Their having to deal with attitudes like that goes along way toward making the job worth $00K.

    • Dave T says:

      You repeatedly state that “most” of the stagehands do not earn $400K. Perhaps you could tell us just what they do make. What is the median pay? the mean? You present yourself as knowing an aweful lot. Do demonstrate your deep knowledge.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    The deal shows a willingness on both sides to give a little and allow the other side to save face. It shows what can happen when each side gives up its idea of the perfect in order to allow the good. It is precisely what did NOT happen in Minnesota, a case of both sides wanting the perfect for itself so ardently that each was willing to see the great orchestra and its inestimably great music director go down the tubes. It’s a “cave-in” only for those blinded by a dislike, at times justified to be sure, of New York and American music-business practitioners.

  • BobM says:

    Stagehands making 400K a year is extortion.

    It sounds like a soprano named Tony has been performing at Carnegie Hall.

    • “Stagehands making 400K a year is extortion.”

      The question I have yet to see answered: Why “stagehands”? The person making $400K is working 40 overtime hours a week.

      • An unskilled labourer earning nearly half a million a year for eighty hours a week is ridiculously high.

        • “An unskilled labourer earning nearly half a million a year for eighty hours a week is ridiculously high”

          That would be an excellent point –if they were unskilled. The fact that so many here don’t understand their skill set doesn’t mean it’s not there; it’s just an example of the attitude that the only people who are really important are the performers.

          • Well, enlighten us, then. Tell us what is required of a concert hall stage hand that requires the level of training and sacrifice that professional performers have had to undergo to justify the kind of salary which would make many a neurosurgeon envious.

            I freely concede they need training – I work full-time in an opera house where the stage hands really earn their money. No-one ever said they weren’t important; just that the sums quoted are in no relation to the tasks they have to perform, especially in a concert hall.

            By the way, let’s not forget a performer can do a concert without any technical props, but no-one would pay to watch a stage hand push scenery around. So, yes, the performers are more important in that they are the people the public pays to hear and see. That’s life.

  • Laurie Davison says:

    If Carnegie Hall fails one day, it’s because of monstrosities such as the Education Wing. That “Education Wing” was built in the space of Artist studios, which were demolished in summer 2011, after the last tenants were evicted. When Andrew Carnegie built the hall, he envisioned the upper floors to be studios for artists, musicians and dancers. It was a community, now deliberately forever erased to make way for this initiative, like building a condo on top of a cemetery. The “Education Wing” will probably suffer the fate that the “Kaplan Space” has been suffering for the past decades — initially a great place for an orchestra rehearsal, now an overly expensive room that donors can afford to use for afternoon tea. Naturally, Carnegie rehearses all of the projects it produces at a non-union venue, Carroll Studios, a 20-minute walk from the stage door. I’m guessing that all of its educational initiatives will head there, too, while these newl spaces will remain “state of the art” until the next fundraiser.

    What was there before the education wing? this:

    Never forget.

    • Lauren says:

      Agreed. The artists and the public are being screwed. This unfortunate turn of events was not at all what Carnegie and other patrons of the arts benefactors had in mind. Some on this, and related, threads seem to think that this is some sort of Norma Rae situation rather than Don Corleone, they are wrong. This situation hurts everyone except Local 1 and a few exec’s at the top. The artists, audience, students, and the city of New York have been shafted. A sad day in the art world.

  • Rick says:

    @Dave T – Most stagehands who are working full time earn around $60k -$75k not including deferred benefits. Thus, a middle-class living wage for a family living in one of the most expensive cities in the US. In fact, most stagehands to not live in Manhattan, because they cannot afford to. The five specific stagehands at CH are earning that much (which includes deferred benefits) for all the reasons mentioned in the other post on this topic.

    @Laurie – I hope that you’ve seen the documentary on Bill Cunningham. It’s heartbreaking how the rich history of all of the artists who have lived in that building over the years has been eradicated.

  • Rick says:

    @Theodore – read the other thread: I’m not sure who you suggest is making a sacrifice, but I imagine that it is not the CH stagehands who average 60 hours a week month in and month out (as reported by the NYTimes) to earn their income. The sums relate to the hours worked, because that’s what they are, hourly workers. And CH chooses to use them at this level continuously throughout the year, thus building up this level of income.

    You’re right – the performers CAN perform with no technical assistance. But not at Carnegie Hall they cant. But for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, many musicians actually want to perform there… strange!

    I wonder what the income would be of a Cleveland Orchestra oboist, working under their union contract, but at the hours and times that Carnegie Hall is asking their stagehands to work would be earning. You seem to suggest that it would be something just short of minimum wage under those circumstances, and since the musicians are more ‘important’ that’s the travesty.

    • Rick, we know what the subtext has been throughout this discussion, even if most have not been honest enough to say it outright: That they are *only* stagehands.

      • No, Jeff, that’s YOU saying that. I’m merely pointing out that I find this level of remuneration excessive, overtime or no overtime. If they were policeman patrolling difficult areas I’d understand, but they’re not.

    • Rick – I’m suggesting nothing of the sort (concerning the minimum wage). If you and Jeff would like to silence the detracters, all you have to do is explain how the work of concert hall stagehands warrants such incredible pay. 60+ hours a week? Yup, I do them, too…

      • “all you have to do is explain how the work of concert hall stagehands warrants such incredible pay”

        Already done. Several times. The fact that several people here who are certain they know what’s required to produce a major concert — but don’t — didn’t like the answer is irrelevant.

        • @Jeff – No, you haven’t. All you’ve done is go on about how unfair people are to imply the stagehands don’t deserve all that money. It’s Rick who has furnished us with facts.

          • I’ve explained it.Rick’s explained it. Neither explanation was what you wanted to read.

          • @Jeff – again – No, you’ve explained nothing on this thread. You’ve just slyly implied that no detractor knows what’s involved in a CH stagehand’s brief and left it at that. Rick has provided us with some figures; you’ve done nothing. It’s extortionate and you know it; that’s why you disappear whenever anyone challenges you to justify it black on white.

  • A. Penner says:

    So, if it’s a musicians union than they are doing the work of the Lord, but if it’s any other field of work the union is a horrible monster that is destroying our society as we know it.

    Got it, Norm. Thanks.

  • Rick says:

    @Theodore – and I don’t understand why you think that. Just as in the other thread that I pointed you to, where the comparison was made to the president’s salary, you are clearly putting one job (police) above another in terms of the idea of deserving. You’re welcome to read my thoughts about this in the other thread. And again, what would a policeman’s income be if he/she worked the hours that the CH leadership asks of their stagehands?

    @Jeffrey – yes indeed. The thing that really galls me about this, is that often people who work in the arts think this. Truly amazing. I’m a union artist and it’s unimaginable to me that anybody who actually makes art can earn too much, It just makes me think that people are ignorant of the world in general.

    • @Rick – I know the other thread. I can certainly tell you from personal experience within my family that a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police would earn nowhere near the equivalent of $400k pa for a consistently 60-hour week. Comparisons with CEO salaries are vain as the paymaster in each case is a different animal. I cited the example of the police as both Carnegie stagehands and policemen are strongly unionised, so it probably comes down to the negotiated hourly rate for both base salaries and overtime. THAT would be information worth having; probably the only sort which could deliver this increasingly circular argument out of its holding pattern.

      • Lauren says:

        Theodore: according to this is the base salary of an NYPD officer –

        Median $59,416, lowest: $40,437, 25% @$49,482, 75% @$70,115, highest: $79,856. There are health and other benefits as well. I do not know if the high-end includes overtime or not NO NYPD officer responding to the general mayhem in the city makes $400,000.00. The President of the United States makes $400,000.00 per year, and stage hands at Carnegie Hall. Here is your new trajectory out of the holding pattern.

    • “it’s unimaginable to me that anybody who actually makes art can earn too much,”

      Well, the common attitude is that, being “only stagehands”, they don’t make art. Whether or not they actually make art is a matter of definition, I suppose, but it’s arrogant to presume that they are not essential to the process.

      • Yes, but they’re not central to the artistic experience that the audience pays for. They are essential and they know it, hence the unionised extortion.

        • “Yes, but they’re not central to the artistic experience that the audience pays for.”

          Really? How much money did Joshua Bell make performing in the Washington train station?

          If you’re saying they’re not necessary in a concert hall, every single major hall management seems to disagree with you…including that of Carnegie Hall.

          • If their ‘necessity’ justifies earning as much as the US President (who, as we know, only works 9am-5pm with an hour for lunch every day, Monday to Friday), then why not the same salary for the janitor, who really IS necessary, otherwise no-one could get into the building in the first place.

            It’s bullshit and you know it.

  • Rick says:

    @Jr – just a point of federal labor law: workers can’t require overtime. CH prefers to have continuity of workers. In my other thread I miscalculated the amount – I now think that they pay around one million dollars in overtime – by choice. It’s more valuable to them to do that then to spend it on anything else. Regardless of what we might spend it on, they obviously budget for this year in and out.

  • Lauren says:

    From Yahoo Answers: In 2006/7 Chicago paid its Concertmaster $385,000 . Top orchestras pay its concertmaster (first violin) $250-500,000 typically… but keep in mind a portion or all of that is typically by an endowment/grant of some kind. Other principal seats are probably half to 2/3 that…. $150-250,000. I knew a guy who was the 1st Bass Trombonist in one of the most visible NE orchestras/pops… he made around $175,000.

    From the NYT article by Allan Kozinn (4 October): The union, which represents the employees who set up chairs and stands and move pianos and percussion instruments, among other things, wanted its members to work in the education wing. Carnegie employs five full-time stagehands, at an average individual compensation of more than $400,000 a year — more than most of the musicians who perform in the hall — as well as part-time workers as needed.

    Some further perspective: The President of the United States base salary is $400,000.00 per year.

    I’m with Norman, Bob M and Theodore on this one – Tony Soprano would have loved a cut of this action.

  • Rick says:

    @Theodore – silence detractors? First I must apologize to you and anybody that I do not agree with on this. I am pretty sure that I haven’t used any mocking or insulting language, or in any way have implied that I wish someone would stop posting.

    Secondly, I don’t know the contract, but let’s take a stab at the $400k figure. Remember that these are hourly workers, ok? So, first remove all deferred benefits, because you don’t buy food with your health insurance or with your pension during working years. I am confident that that is a full 33%, so now we have a take home pay of $300k

    Now, overtime. Many union contracts have provisions in them where you do not go off of overtime unless you get a certain number of hour’s rest. This is called ‘turnaround time’. I would bet that saying that the stagehands only put in on average 20 hours of week of overtime is inaccurate. In fact, If they worked 60 hours in four days for example, all but the first 8 hours would be overtime.

    Further – how many holidays do you imagine that a concert hall has performances on? I would suggest most or all. Most union contracts an any sector have bonus pay for holidays. There are 11 federal holidays. That’s two weeks of a normal full-time job.

    Lastly – and since I don’t know the contract, I don’t know if this particular one pyramids overtime, but it is possible that it does, and that there would be situations in which the hourly rate is 3 or even 4 times the contractual rate.

    It would be conservative to divide the $300k by 2.5-3 to account for all the above scale hours worked. That would but the contractual base wage at $100-120k.

    Ah, I just looked at their LM report for 2012. The wages are as follows, WITHOUT deferred compensation: $272k, $288k, $291k, $287k, $345k. And just to complete the high earners, there are 5 in the office earning at this level, not including Clive Gillinson, who earns more than one million dollars. So, I would say that confirms my math in general.

    Can we have a conversation about why the director of administration deserves to earn $298k? Or whether $2.5 million is too much to pay the architect who designed the renovation? Or the $1.05 million that went to the Vienna Philharmonic.

    • Dave T says:

      “Can we have a conversation about …whether $2.5 million is too much to pay the architect who designed the renovation?”

      Yes, we can. The $2.5MM is not what “the architect” (i.e. one man) pockets from such a renovation project. It is the fee the firm receives. It may represent hundreds of person-hours worked by staff members who may include anyone from the principal, chief designers, several staff architects, IT, clerical, etc. It also covers overhead and, yes, profit. This figure is typically less than 10% of the project costs. No, it is not at all unreasonable, as you suggest.

    • @Rick – Thanks for the information and for taking the trouble to reply so fully. ‘Silencing detractors’ was meant in the spirit of providing just this type of statistics which could help people to either leave or continue the debate as it was starting to go nowhere, fast. Lauren’s contribution also helps readers get a better view of the big picture. A base salary of $100 – 120k pa is still eye-wateringly high, though, for a concert hall stagehand, even if Jeff wouldn’t agree, but that’s not the immediate issue, here.

    • Or the $1.05 million that went to the Vienna Philharmonic.

      Having the whole Vienna Phil for just over the price of the two best-paid stagehands seems a bargain to me.

  • Rick says:

    @Lauren – just one comment about comparing a private sector union to a government union: Just like the way that Medicare is the cheapest / best value insurance that money can buy, the same goes for any government job. It’s actually one of the things that they do pretty well, keeping down salaries. Would the president of the US be earning $400k if his employer was a company do you think? Does Ray Kelly earn over 1 million dollars like Clive Gillinson does? I don’t know, but I would imagine not.

  • Kyle says:

    Okay, can we stop saying tgat they are just stagehands. IATSE represents lighting and sound technicians, programmers, mixers, carpenters, electricians, riggers etc. Its not all unskilled labor. Sure, there are box pushers, but those aren’t the guys making 400k.

  • Rick says:

    And it’s clear to me that stagehands, props people, hairdressers, makeup artists, wardrobe workers, stage managers and many more do make art. They’re just as essential as actors, musicians, singers, dancers and many more. What’s more, they are all workers, and they are all in unions which are responsible for their making a living wage.

  • Isn’t there something in NYC called ‘Golden Time’? I once heard that the demise of the show ‘City of Angels’ was not down to falling box office receipts but the fact the production company had to pay technical staff and stagehands this multiplied hourly rate of overtime as certain changes had to be made very quickly. If anybody knows anything about this, I’d be intrigued to learn more.

  • Rick says:

    @Dave T – This will be my last comment to the happiness of some. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that everybody is getting paid what they are worth, and what someone else is willing to pay. And in this case, willingly paying because it is clearly a choice on behalf of CH leadership. Nobody at CH is complaining about the pay reported in recent news, only jurisdiction, and at any rate they agreed in the end to a limited jurisdiction to the happiness of both sides.

  • Rick says:

    Well, I said it was my last post, but I saw this today and couldn’t resist considering that now the posts are starting to get a bit meanspirited. It shows how only the orchestra is important – not even the conductor is necessary! Although it’s strange that the Carnegie Hall Orchestra isn’t arriving with their chairs and music stands along with their instruments… maybe they made two trips!