Bodyvox dance company stagehands win IATSE Local 28 contract


Union stagehands at nonprofit Bodyvox dance company in Portland unanimously ratified a first contract Dec. 19. The agreement doubled wages from what workers made before they announced their plans to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 28.

The contract sets a base wage of $32 an hour for temporary and casual stagehands. Prior to 2023, Bodyvox had paid these workers $16 an hour. However, the company had raised wages to $25 an hour after workers asked the National Labor Relations Board for an election in January 2023.

The contract also provides annual cost-of-living adjustments on July 1 of 3.5% to 6.5%, depending on the regional inflation rate; premium pay for 11 holidays, including Yom Kippur; one hour of paid time off for every 30 worked; and free dance classes for stagehands and their children. The agreement expires June 30, 2026.

Bodyvox is an internationally touring dance troupe, performance space, and dance school. To prepare the stage for shows, it hires temporary carpenters, lighting technicians, electricians, sound technicians, riggers, and camera operators.

The contract covers 10 “core” stagehands who were consistently hired by Bodyvox before the union campaign. Those workers voted on March 2 to unionize, and under the contract, they will be the first people Bodyvox must offer work to when it becomes available.

While it’s common practice for companies to ask the same stagehands back, the likelihood of getting rehired can depend on whether the production manager knows and likes you. Now rehire is guaranteed.

“It’s a relief to know that whoever the manager is, we will still have a job,” said Iain Chester, a stagehand electrician who has worked with Bodyvox for about seven years.

If the core workers are unavailable, Bodyvox must offer the work to other Local 28 members through the union’s hiring hall. That’s a benefit for the company, too, because it gives them access to a pool of highly skilled people that specialize in rigging, lighting, and other production design.

Bodyvox would not agree to contribute to a union benefits fund, so the contract does not provide health or retirement benefits. Local 28 Business Agent Rose Etta Venetucci said agreeing to go without those benefits was the biggest concession of negotiations, but workers say the higher wages and job security will help balance out some of that loss. They plan to propose benefits again when negotiations reopen in 2026.


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