STATE THEATRE ON WORKERS' PAY
I'm writing to express my disappointment in what I feel was unprofessional, not to mention lopsided, journalism on the Portland Phoenix's part in the recent article you published May 3, on union labor (see "Hanging Tough," by Nicholas Schroeder). Not only was I contacted (emailed, not called) for comments on the State Theatre within less than 24 hours of the article's deadline, there was apparently no-fact checking on the Phoenix's behalf regarding anything that was reported on the labor situation at the State Theatre.
To address what was misreported in the article: The State Theatre pays a $50 flat rate for each call. There are three possible calls per show: load in call, load out call and show (or spot) call. If a stagehand works three calls then he or she takes home $150+ for what is on average a seven- eight- hour shift. Typically this works out to $18-20 an hour, but more often than not our hands make around $20-25 an hour. We base our flat rate on a four-hour call time; however, the typical State Theatre call time is two hours. This flat rate was established to ensure that our hands can make a good, part-time wage, which, although it is based on a four-hour minimum, is paid even if an employee works only one hour. As well, I understand that rigging is a dangerous and specialized job, and riggers at the State Theatre (as is Corey Anderson) make much more than the $12.50 stated in the article.
Your reporter's statement that, "The State, by contrast, pays Anderson a flat $50 per job, regardless of its duration. Most jobs there are under four hours, but they could conceivably go as long as eight — with no extra money for the longer job" is completely false. But I guess that's why the word "conceivably" was chosen. Bad choice.
The State Theatre does not take an assessment of any of our employees' wages. None of my employees' wages goes toward paying anyone's salary or is assessed go toward dues, as do union wages. What we pay at the State goes straight into our employees' pockets. Our employees don't think it's necessary to pay someone else's salary or any dues to an outside organization to demand the things they are already receiving internally — a safe working environment, fair wages, and a chance to have input in the company.
As has always been our position at the State, should an employee want to join Local 114 in order to make a full-time living at stagehand work, that's fine with us. But at the State Theatre we offer part-time work for 80 or so shows per year so that our employees can pursue other interests and lines of work. Most of the stagehands who work with us at the State have other jobs and interests including touring as musicians, sound and recording engineers, tour managers, filmmakers, and so forth. The State Theatre offers the flexibility for employees to leave and go on tour, or take a recording session, or go work on another project — and their job is here waiting for them when they return. This is job security. I'm not very familiar with many other companies or unions who offer this.