Seeking to unionize, stagehands protest at Philly theater

Stagehands at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia say they want to unionize. During a protest Monday at the Avenue of the Arts institution, the brought a friend along.

A giant inflatable rat stood proud at the theater’s entrance as workers called on management of its primary tenant the Philadelphia Theatre Company to accept their vote to unionize.

Michael Barnes, business manager of Stagehands Local 8, says they are the only unrepresented workers from the League of Regional Theaters — and are being treated unfairly in belt tightening.

“Right now, as a result of these people not being represented, they are being asked to unfairly take on the burden of the belt-tightening where the other unions who are represented by the crafts and the managers are giving themselves raises and the cutbacks are being taken by the people who aren’t being represented,” charged Barnes.

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Sara Garonzik, the company artistic director, says officials are “surprised and worried” by the move of the 30 to 50 stagehands to unionize. She says its puts the small company’s future in jeopardy.

A court hearing on the matter is set for this week.

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