NLRB Rules on Union Charges Accusing Rhino NW of Unfair Labor Practices

SEATTLE, May 16, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — A complaint alleging unfair labor practices and notice of hearing was issued by Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against event staffing services Rhino NW, paving the way to a negotiated contract for some 70 local riggers. In the complaint, issued on April 27, 2016, the NLRB alleges that Rhino NW unlawfully retaliated against riggers who serve as leaders in the union organizing drive to negotiate a contract.

The complaint is designed to force Rhino NW to honor its employees’ federally protected collective bargaining rights. The hearing is scheduled to take place on July 26, 2016, 14 months following the date the original petition was filed by International Alliance of Theatrical Stage (IATSE) Local 15 seeking to represent the riggers of Rhino. Since the NLRB officially certified Local 15 as the exclusive bargaining representative of these workers, Rhino has refused to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with Local 15 violating federal law.

Sal Ponce, President of IATSE Local 15, said that this action by the federal government is another important step toward getting a contract. “The riggers are simply trying to bring Rhino NW to the table to negotiate a fair contract,” said Ponce. “In the end, we want nothing more than a contract that provides a fair wage and industry-standard working conditions.”

Rhino has consistently refused to bargain with IATSE Local 15 despite having been ordered to do so by the federal government. It has removed union-supporting employees from its schedule and deactivated their employment in order to punish them for standing up for the union and to discourage other employees from exercising their rights.

“The employees have been attempting to collectively bargain for more than a year. At this time they have little job security, no sick leave or health insurance, lack family-friendly scheduling, and work at hourly rates well below industry standards. They need and deserve a contract,” said Ponce.

The riggers do the critical backstage work at Western Washington live events and concerts such as The Gorge (George), xFinity Arena (Everett), White River Amphitheater (Auburn), Tacoma Dome (Tacoma), and occasionally at the two Seattle sports stadiums, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.

Philadelphia IATSE strike

Theater Workers Unhappy With Contract; Exec Says Kimmel Is at a “Critical Time”

By J. Cooper Robb

On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts canceled all performances at the Kimmel Center, Academy of Music and Merriam Theater. The cause for the disruption was a work stoppage by IATSE, Local 8, the union that represents ushers, box-office personnel, stagehands and wardrobe employees. The Kimmel Center’s contracts with the union expired at midnight Sept. 30. Although no new contract agreement has been reached, the union and Kimmel did manage to agree on Oct. 1 to a one-week “cooling off” period. During that time, performances will continue at the Academy and Merriam as well as the Kimmel’s Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater and Innovation Studio.

What happens next however is anyone’s guess. Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers issued a statement that the “Kimmel Center leadership is optimistic that the renewed negations will be productive.” In an interview by phone on Monday night, Kimmel Center Senior Vice President Thor Steingraber described the Kimmel as being at a “critical time.” According to Steingraber, the funding the performing-arts center receives from the state of Pennsylvania was reduced from $2 million for the 2010-11 season to $150,000 for the 2011-12 campaign.

Wages and benefits are at the heart of the disagreement. Asked to characterize the talks, Steingraber says the two sides remain apart on both the length and the terms of a new contract. “Taking a long-term contract would be irresponsible for us to do at this time” says Steingraber, pointing to the uncertainty surrounding the Philadelphia Orchestra’s bankruptcy as one reason the Kimmel is seeking a shorter deal than the five-year contract Steingraber said the union proposed. For the time being all performances at the Kimmel Center’s three on site venues as well as the Academy of Music and Merriam Theater are scheduled to proceed as usual. When the two sides do resume negotiations (most likely on Mon., Oct. 10) the Philadelphia Orchestra will be mere days away from their opening night (Oct. 13) followed by the launch of the Orchestra’s new season on Oct 14. Steingraber said that on Oct. 1, the Kimmel alerted patrons of the cancellations and offered to refund or exchange tickets for the canceled performances. Steingraber said that the Kimmel is prepared to do the same in the event of any future cancellations. He also reported that in the event of a work stoppage, the Kimmel may look into staging events at alternate venues around the city. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees represents about 1,000 workers at the Kimmel Center, Merriam Theater and Academy of Music.

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