Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fair wages . . . or greed personified?


I was horrified to read a report on NorthJersey.com about the earnings of five stage hands at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Would you believe $422,599 a year? Plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation?

That is what a fellow named Dennis O'Connell makes at Carnegie Hall. He is the props manager, the highest-paid stagehand.

Four other guys, two of them carpenters, two electricians, are paid somewhat lesser amounts, ranging down to $327,257, plus $76,459 in benefits and deferred compensation, for the junior member of the team, John Goodson, an electrician.

. . .

The Carnegie stagehands' pay was something else again, but not, as it turns out, unique. At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year.

To repeat, that is the average compensation of all the workers who move musicians' chairs into place and hang lights, not the pay of the top five.

Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay.

How to account for all this munificence? The power of a union, Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. "Power," as in the capacity and willingness to close most Broadway theaters for 19 days two years ago when agreement on a new contract could not be reached.


There's more at the link.

I believe unions have their place, and I've personally benefited from union intervention in my career on one occasion: but, quite frankly, those figures are enough to make me spit in disgust. If a union can extort such ridiculous sums for stagehands, what does that say about the spineless management who caved into such outrageously exorbitant demands? And why should any sane person pay the prices demanded for tickets to such facilities, when a large proportion of the money raised isn't going to support the arts, but to pamper the cossetted staff?

I'm not a patron of those facilities; and, with this information in mind, I'm most unlikely ever to become one. I could never overcome my resentment at being ripped off to pay extortionate wages and salaries like this. Certainly, I can't support even a dime of taxpayers' money being spent on those facilities, so long as such wages and salaries are being paid.





Peter

5 comments:

Old NFO said...

Peter, good post, and these are the things the unions DON'T want people to know!

perlhaqr said...

"You're all fired."

Graybeard said...

I think it's time to start shutting down unions. Certainly we should go back to municipal jobs should not be allowed to unionize. Put SEIU, and AFSCME out of our misery.

Anonymous said...

"...as in the capacity and willingness to close most Broadway theaters for 19 days two years ago when agreement on a new contract could not be reached."

"...what does that say about the spineless management who caved into such outrageously exorbitant demands?"

The former (above) kinda answers the latter (above) question, No?

Chris said...

Keep in mind that these people are NOT highly skilled. The average Theater student learns how to do their job in the first or second year of their studies.

The only reason they aren't hiring those students to replace them at reasonable wages is that actors have their own union, and scabing as a stagehand will keep them out of the actors union, leaving them largely ineligible for their chosen career.