Recognition of Union Prompted Deal Between Radio City and SSDC
Nine years ago, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC) initiated a “recognition strike” against Radio City Music Hall as part of a labor dispute with the venue’s former management. That conflict has now been resolved, both sides say.
In 1992, labor sought Radio City’s recognition of the union, and picket lines were placed around the high profile venue. The lines were maintained for a time in 1992, but the dispute wore on and the physical strike presence was eventually removed. Radio City was placed on the SSDC strike list. Since that time, says SSDC executive director Barbara Hauptman, “our members could not work there.
“It was a big bite to take back in 1992,” Hauptman said. “Some said it may have been too big.” In any case, the SSDC strike has led to a deal this year.
“The agreement we have with Radio City,” Hauptman explained, “involves the way our members work, compensation and welfare.”
Hauptman said that the issues between the union and Radio City were never about economics. Instead, she speculated, the venue’s former management had a universal disdain for unions and was loathe to enter into agreements with labor. “The previous management had difficulties with unionization across the board,” she said. That changed with the purchase of Radio City by Madison Square Garden (MSG). At MSG, the management was closer to labor through its production of shows like A Christmas Carol. With talents such as Carol‘s Susan Stroman and her late husband Mike Ockrent already close to the SSDC, MSG’s Tim Hawkinson saw an opening and reached out to Hauptman to initiate a rapprochement.
While there is no specific “contract” between SSDC and Radio City (both sides described it simply as the “agreement”) the deal between the two groups fully settles the long-term conflict. Early in the struggle, SSDC member Robert Longbottom worked at Radio City, but in order to do so he took reduced “fiscal core” membership status with the union. There are no plans to revisit the Longbottom issue at this time, Hauptman told Playbill On-Line, and his case was not factored as part of the SSDC strategy.
Hauptman recalled that on taking office SSDC president Ted Pappas had told her, ‘The first thing on my agenda is to resolve the issue with Radio City Music Hall.'”
Hauptman pointed out that the deal was based on union recognition of the unique nature of Radio City’s spectaculars, as opposed to Broadway shows. From that point, Hauptman said, Radio City was willing to agree that if its shows do find life beyond the venue and move to a Broadway setting, then any existing Broadway contract would supersede the SSDC/Radio City agreement.
—By Murdoch McBride