Stagehands Making $400,000-Plus Strike Carnegie Opening

A strike by Carnegie Hall stagehands, whose pay with overtime tops $400,000 a year, canceled the venue’s important season-opening concert tonight featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, superstar violinist Joshua Bell and vocalist Esperanza Spalding.

(The scheduled Opening Night Gala dinner, benefiting Carnegie Hall’s artistic and education programs, still takes place at the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom, beginning at 6 p.m.).

“No stagehands, no show!” dozens of members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees chanted outside Carnegie Hall’s 57th-street entrance earlier today. “Stand up, fight back!”

The stagehands demand jurisdiction over a new upstairs education wing.

Carnegie Hall, in a statement, said doing so “would divert significant funds away from the Hall’s music education programs and into stagehand fees.”

“Local One also demands that Carnegie Hall displace other union employees currently performing maintenance work in the new Education Wing, insisting that stagehands perform this work, which will involve a substantially higher cost,” according to the statement.

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Picketers referred questions to Local One President James J. Claffey Jr., who they said was meeting with Carnegie Hall management.

Dennis O’Connell, the hall’s longtime properties manager, who earned $465,000 in 2011, declined to talk to a reporter.

Carnegie Hall employs five full-time stagehands and uses part-timers as needed, a spokeswoman, Synneve Carlino, said in an e-mail.

The full-timers earned an average of $420,000 in 2011, according to the tax return. They move equipment in and out of the building and prepare three stages for performances, while operating audiovisual and other equipment. They work on holidays and weekends.

Claffey confirmed the strike in an outgoing recorded message on his telephone line at Local One headquarters west of Times Square and instructed union members to gather at the hall’s West 57th Street address to man picket lines.

Ticketholders can direct questions to CarnegieCharge at +1-212-247-7800.

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