By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Stagehands were walking a picket line today outside the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, home of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, on South Broad Street (the “Avenue of the Arts”).

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The stagehands, previously nonunion, opted last year for union representation in negotiations with Philadelphia Theatre Company management.

The stagehands are represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (“IATSE”) Local 8.  Union business agent Michael Barnes says negotiations began in July of last year, and the strike was called yesterday evening because,  the union claims, their jobs are being threatened.

“The offer the union made was to continue the practices established before the union,” Barnes tells KYW Newsradio.  “Management has rejected that and re-proposed that if the union comes into the building there will be elimination of jobs and they will have to be farmed out.”

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Shira Beckerman, managing director of Philadelphia Theatre Company, says, “PTC and the union did negotiate an interim agreement in October, and since that agreement’s expiration members of the PTC management team have been in negotiations with representatives of the union in an ongoing basis.”

She insists they are negotiating in good faith and the show will go on.
Barnes says the union expects to return to the bargaining table on Monday, which is the Martin Luther King holiday, although Beckerman says she has not yet received confirmation of that.

Meanwhile, both sides confirm that rehearsals of “The Mountaintop,” which depicts Dr. King’s life the night before his assassination, continue without the stagehands.

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