Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is finally negotiating a first union contract for its 71 stagehands and theater technicians.
The newly-unionized group runs backstage operations during the nine months of the year that shows are being rehearsed and performed. They voted 37 to 25 on June 10 to join International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). But OSF management appealed the results of the election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing that permanent year-round crew members (who mostly don’t want to unionize) should have voted too. But the NLRB’s national Board in Washington, DC, dismissed OSF’s appeal with a one-sentence ruling Aug. 20.
“[OSF] did what most employers typically end up doing in an organizing campaign,” says IATSE rep Radar Bateman. “It wasn’t outside of the norm, but they weren’t aggressive doing it …. It never got very adversarial.”
Bargaining teams for the two sides met Sept. 28, and again on Oct. 2. The union bargaining team consists of Bateman, attorney Elizabeth Joffe, and members and alternates from each of five departments. OSF’s team consists of by attorney Rick Liebman, executive director Cynthia Rider, production director Alys Holden, and departmental managers.
OSF managers hope to have an agreement before the 2016 season begins in February, Bateman said.
“My team has lots and lots of respect for OSF, and they take great pride in the work they do,” Bateman said. “We want the employer to take the same amount of pride in their employees, and respect their employees the same way.”