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Talking Outside ‘Quiet Rooms’

Stagehands & Skilled Working Class To Talk Outside ‘Quiet Rooms’

c Lisa A. Miles 1/21/12

Toward 2011’s end, the article entitled “Stagehands Circumvented for First Night” was published, including on Occupy With Art nationally .  It was picked up locally in shortened form by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and linked to online by the Pgh City Paper.  Raising public awareness of the plight of these stagehands, who are part of our city’s working class, is critical.

What IATSE Local 3 members decided to do, on Dec. 31, was hand out informational pamphlets early in the day downtown, so as not to appear to be ruining the family festivities of First Night.  But they had every right to appear in the evening, had they chosen, to bring their cause to the forefront– something the Pgh. Cultural Trust, the City and others, apparently, think they shouldn’t be doing.

Despite tremendous positive feedback by all kinds of supporters, grateful that the article was written, there were also a couple “Letters to the Editor” in both papers to the contraire, not to mention continued err-reporting about the subject.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently mentioned that he felt income inequality issues in this country should only be talked about “in quiet rooms.”  How genteel of the multi-millionaire.  Equally, some people think IATSE is “bullying” the City and should not “impugn” (‘attack by words or argument’) for what should fairly be their work on projects for organizations funded with mega-public dollars.

The latest P-G Letter to the Editor (1/21/12), from Audrey Glickman, who held a high staff position within City Council offices, and now apparently an aspiring politician herself, states, “IATSE rates inside theaters have gone so high many local companies can no longer afford performances there.”

What?  IATSE’s rates span $17-$23.50/ hr. and they offered to work at low-end; Trust President McMahon said the First Night non-union workers are hired at $20.50 (P-G 12/18/11)– somehow saving the organization from “rais[ing] the price of putting on the events” if they hired union (as per his City Paper interview, 12/30/11)?

Again, what?  Makes no sense, right?

The Trust started to change their tune in the media, too, when the truth came out about the cost savings of hiring union here. (The Trust hasn’t been honest when they have said on the record they pay the outside workers $20.50, yet they and their contractor Flyspace Productions are definitely ‘benefitting’ from their little union-circumvention arrangement.)

Come Dec. 30th, “optimist by heart and by soul” McMahon was quoted in the City Paper with new argument (but old to IATSE), that to hire the union would have jurisdictional “implications that certainly go beyond First Night and beyond even Trust events.”  No kidding.  And again, he was blatantly dishonest on the public record when he said that it was the union who “had a ‘change of mind’ just months after the parties ratified a new six-year contract.”

IATSE has been trying to secure a contract over such work (or a gentleman’s agreement, ironically) for years!  They rightfully should have the contracts of stage work in this town when Big Public Money is going to those hosting organizations.  No, they are not entitled to it any more than an autoworker is entitled to work on your car rather than an accountant.  But yes– this is  Local 3‘s jurisdiction.  And they have every right to talk about it in loud, noisy public forums, not quiet rooms.

So when will it be adequately exposed that The Pgh. Cultural Trust seeks to hush up the union workers?  And that those who seek to support the cultural 1% got their facts wrong and their values in the wrong place?

The Cultural Trust continues to taint First Night every passing year– the union doesn’t ruin it by airing their justified grievance.

In the same Letters column that aired Glickman’s view were two other letters showing the promise of wise citizens–  William D. Moutz Sr. of Verona writes, “It is not corporations that gave us… safe working places, health care, a living wage, sick pay, seniority, paid vacations, etc. It was the banding together of men and women from all walks of life to join a union and take pride in their work and their lives.  Business today is in a race to achieve the greatest profit with the lowest payroll possible.”  And Maureen Kowlaski of Brighton Heights speaks of her husband who was laid off and can only find work paying $7.50/hr– “If manufacturers want high-quality, skilled labor, then they should be prepared to pay for it. My husband is an experienced machinist. He was laid off from a local mill, making $17.50 an hour.”

Putting on First Night and the Regatta, Dollar Bank Jamboree and Three Rivers Arts Festival with union skilled labor would not break the bank over at the Cultural Trust and other entities.  Don’t be fooled– the real ‘culture’ is in the hands of the artist, the art-worker, the laborers….

Machinists, stagehands, and so many others of the skilled working class can’t make a decent living as it is, despite the fact that they are professionals at what they do.  It is time they stand up to the 1%.  They are, and will continue to….







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