Lawmakers Spotlight Contract Dispute Between Stagehands Union, DeYor

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Two federal lawmakers are urging the manager of The DeYor Performing Arts Center to reach a contract agreement with the local stagehands union.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, sent a letter Thursday to Matt Pagac, chief executive and operating officer of Stambaugh Auditorium, which manages the DeYor, expressing their concern over the status of negotiations with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 101, based in Youngstown.

The stagehands union provides labor necessary to prepare the venue for a performance. Their work can include everything from unloading and setting up sound, lighting and stage equipment, and then loading it back on to trucks; to operating sound and lighting equipment and stage rigging.

Stambaugh took over management of the DeYor at the end of 2020, with the pandemic in full swing and very few performances scheduled.

Jeff Hall, president of IATSE Local 101, said his union had been working under the terms of an expired contract with the Youngstown Symphony Society – which owns the DeYor – to provide stage labor for all Youngstown Symphony Orchestra concerts. The contract expired about seven years ago.

The union also frequently worked at DeYor for touring shows under contracts reached between the union and the show’s production company or promoter.

The Stagehands also provided labor at Stambaugh Auditorium up until about 2007, when that hall severed relations and began using its own labor force.

In their letter to Pagac, the federal lawmakers spoke of the importance of the arts and of their efforts to create the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program to help venues survive the pandemic.

Stambaugh auditorium received $728,000 in SVOG money.

“For more than 50 years, IATSE workers have made arts organizations successful in the Valley and contributed to the fabric of this community,” the letter states. “It is deeply troubling that an agreement cannot be reached to ensure these workers are treated with dignity…”

In a statement released Friday, Pagac said he shares the sentiments of Brown and Ryan, and is waiting to hear from the union on when it will be able to meet.

“We have expressed to IATSE Local 101 our wishes to explore how [the union] and the Youngstown Symphony Society may find a mutually beneficial way of working together,” Pagac’s statement reads. “In their last response, IATSE Local 101 stated that it was unable to confirm dates with its international representative for a discussion with the Youngstown Symphony Society. From that statement, the society’s understanding was that the local would contact us when they had received dates from the international representative, and that then we would mutually select a date to meet. We have not received suggested dates or other communication from IATSE Local 101.”

The stagehands union requires one of its international representatives be present at contract negotiations.

Hall said his local had been working under “a handshake agreement” with the Symphony Society but has not been contracted for shows at DeYor since Stambaugh management took over.

Hall said that Stambaugh employs its own nonunion staff of stage workers, and they are the only ones allowed to operate equipment owned by the DeYor since the change in management went into effect.

The DeYor Performing Arts Center comprises the 2,300-seat Powers Auditorium and the 600-seat Ford Family Recital Hall.

The stagehands union provides stage labor at several other venues in the Mahoning Valley and is the exclusive provider of labor at Covelli Centre and The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

IATSE Local 101 has just over 40 members, Hall said, but also draws from a pool of 200 casual workers when a large job makes that necessary.

The ranks of its union are generally replenished by those casual workers after they have put in the requisite number of hours, Hall said.

Its contracts vary but IATSE workers generally make between $20 and $25 an hour.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.