Carnegie Hall Cancels Opening-Night Gala Due to Stagehand Strike

Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - 11:22 AM

Stagehands picket Carnegie Hall on Wednesday morning Stagehands picket Carnegie Hall on Wednesday morning (Brian Wise/WQXR)

Updated 6:30 pm

A last-minute strike by Carnegie Hall’s stagehands has forced the cancellation of the hall’s opening night gala with the Philadelphia Orchestra, scheduled for Wednesday. The dispute centers over whether the union would have jurisdiction over the hall's newly-renovated education wing.

With the cancellation, WQXR's live broadcast of the gala has been called off as well. The station will present an archival episode of Carnegie Hall Live in its place.

The stagehands, represented by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), began picketing the hall early Wednesday morning. About 25 stagehands formed a picket beneath the marquee, chanting "no stagehands, no show." Another 50 union workers stood behind the hall holding signs. The Philadelphia Orchestra's tour truck idled on Seventh Avenue, adjacent to a giant rat placed by the administrative office doors.

One picketer, who declined to give his name, said the hall and the union had been talking for the past year over the use of non-union employees to load in equipment and instruments to the hall's new education wing, to be located on the upper floors of the building. Carnegie Hall maintains that such a wide-ranging jurisdiction would compromise its education mission. In a statement, the hall said that the union "rejected a proposed new agreement that includes annual wage and benefit increases and continued jurisdiction throughout Carnegie Hall's concert venues."

Carnegie Hall said that Wednesday night's concert will not be rescheduled and that patrons will receive refunds; a fundraiser dinner at the Waldorf Astoria will still take place. On Wednesday afternoon, IATSE announced on Twitter that it will be picketing at the Waldorf.

The Philadelphia Orchestra meanwhile will give a free concert at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia tonight in place of the Carnegie Hall gala.

This is the first strike in Carnegie Hall's history and it comes one day after New York City Opera announced it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Also on Tuesday, Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vänskä resigned amid a labor impasse that has dragged on for more than a year.

"This is really about the perils facing classical music in the 21st century," said New York Times classical music reporter Michael Cooper in an interview with WNYC. "It really shows you how fragile the industry is right now."

Below is a sampling of Twitter reaction. What do you think about the cancellations and disputes impacting classical music? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.



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Comments [10]

raquel from Bs. As. Argentina

Escribo en español pq soy argentina, lo que no me enorgullece en estos tiempos.
Jamas pense que estas cosas pasaran en vuestra maravillosa ciudad. Que tristeza! Adoro el Carnegie Hall, el Teatro de la Opera. El Avery Fisher Hall y el Met...Los conciertos en el parque!
Cada vez que visito NY, me deleito con vuestra propuesta cultural-

D´s mio! No nos abandonen°
Por favor! No perdamos esa fuente de deleite.

Oct. 03 2013 12:59 PM
Marty Goodman

I completely side with the workers. Why should mostly rich loafers enjoy music when the right to a unionized workplace is trampled on? Strike brothers and sisters until you get justice!

Oct. 03 2013 10:56 AM
Stephen Lieber from Hartsdale

I heard a report that some of the Carnegie stagehands earn more that $400,000 a year. If true, this is obscene! Carnegie management needs to stand its ground, and re-negotiate the existing contract to bring it into the real world.

Oct. 03 2013 07:55 AM

@Les -- Yes. I like my job. Is it frustrating at times? Yes. I try to make the best of it.

Oct. 03 2013 02:30 AM
John F. Mignone from East Meadow, NY

Outrageous! I'm certainly not against unions but some of these guys earn over $400,000 a year, a lot more than most highly trained classical musicians. At a time when many many people are struggling financially, some others don't appreciate what they have.

Oct. 02 2013 07:08 PM

@donald steinman: "throw the whole group out - cancel the season" What alternate universe do you inhabit?

Oct. 02 2013 06:53 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Does anyone ANYWHERE --- James Levine excepted --- his and like his or her job anymore? I'm not trying to be a wise guy: I'm dead serious.

Oct. 02 2013 06:48 PM
Jim Murphy

Sad for New Yorkers but great for Philadelphians - Yannick hits another high note.

Oct. 02 2013 05:29 PM
donald steinman

absolutely shameful....
would encourage management to thow the whole group out

cancel the season.. beyond beklief.. being led by a group of real rabble...

Oct. 02 2013 04:08 PM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

This comes as another blow for New Yorkers already reeling from the demise of City Opera.The turf war waged for the upper floors of the building housing Carnegie Hall has boiled over,with bad feelings on both sides,and insults being traded on the internet by union supporters and opponents.

Oct. 02 2013 02:02 PM

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