From the opening days of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the IATSE stagehands have been an integral part of the performances you see on stage. We work behind the scenes, installing and running all aspects of the shows. We perform our tasks with pride, expertise, and efficiency, and we love our jobs.
It was therefore a great personal loss to each of us when, after years of mutually satisfactory partnership, the management of the Kravis Center-- for spurious reasons-- summarily opted to break our work agreement, throw us out, and hire others to replace us.
The legal ramifications of so abruptly breaking a labor contract without Cause have been wending their way through the courts for the past decade. At every ruling the Kravis has been told they are wrong on all counts and ordered to reinstate the illegally fired workers and fulfill their contractual agreement. They continue to drag their feet and concoct ways to avoid obeying the courts' orders. Contempt of court charges were threatened in the last ruling. Should this situation continue, that will come to pass, with the attendant fines upon the Kravis Center.
Our demands are not odd nor are they unreasonable. At this writing, the only point that stands officially at issue between us is the Kravis management's insistence on reserving the first ten positions of any work call to allot to the persons they hired to replace us when they began this fight. They want to give the illegally hired workers inappropriate job preference over better qualified union members, have them work under different workplace rules, for different (lesser) wages & benefits.
This is so ridiculous in every aspect that we suspect it is just another way to purposefully stall contract negotiations. It is unfair to the union members displaced and to the illegally hired workers, as well. The jobs that the illegally hired workers now hold belong, as the courts confirm, to others. It's unfair to the replacement workers in that it denies them the benefits of the union contract. If they're doing the same work, they should get the same deal. To deny them this is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the law.
We have offered to take these workers into our union, make them Brothers, and see that they get the same deal we all get, which, as the Kravis management keeps pointing out, is a fine employment agreement with good rates of pay and decent benefits. If these workers choose, as is their right in Florida, NOT to join the union, they must still be allowed & required to work under the same rules, wages, etc. as the rest of us, as provided by the IATSE contract for Dreyfoos Hall. This is the law of the land.
We don't want to fight with the Kravis Center: We want to work for them. In that spirit, we have continued to fill work calls for them, and even to represent the hall for the many presenters who insist on IATSE stagehands to insure a safe and efficient backstage environment. We've been told by many touring companies that we are the best, most efficient crew in the nation. We are very proud of that. This beautiful facility and this, our hometown community, deserve no less. We hope that the management of the Kravis Center agrees. We hope they will agree to resolve this conflict once and for all, and let us all get back to doing what we do best: our jobs.