By MALLORY GRUBEN
A unit of 10 stagehands at Bodyvox dance company in Portland joined International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 28 in a unanimous vote. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) tallied the 8 to 0 vote on March 2, about two and a half months after the union filed its petition.
Founded in 1997 by Emmy Award-winning choreographers Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, Bodyvox runs a dance troupe that tours internationally. The company also hosts a performance space for other dance groups and dance classes.
The new unit consists of temporary or casual workers who help prepare the stage and performers for shows. That includes carpenters, lighting technicians and electricians, sound technicians and engineers, riggers, flymen, truck operators and loaders, forklift operators, personnel lift operators, audiovisual technicians, camera operators, spot operators, wardrobe technicians/dressers, hair/wig and makeup workers, parking attendants and space managers.
Employees who participated in the union drive will join a first call list, which reserves them the right to accept a job with Bodyvox before any other contracted stagehands.
Iain Chester, a stagehand electrician, said the shop had casually talked about unionizing, but stagnant wages and a change in managers helped push organizing from an idea to a reality.
Although the company seemed “a little perturbed” with the effort, supervisors did not make any overt attempts to stymie the union, Chester said. Ahead of the NLRB election, the company provided raises for employees, bringing average pay up from $16 an hour to $25 an hour.
“That brought it a lot more in line with what people are being paid to do this elsewhere in town — and not just union labor but other nonprofit organizations that don’t hire union labor were starting to pay that much,” Chester said. “It took this job from something that is fun to something we can devote our time to and support ourselves with.”
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