Broadway Service Workers Could Strike in New York During Holidays

The union representing most of the service workers at Broadway theaters is in a dispute with the Broadway League that could lead to a worker strike during the holidays.

Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union represents cleaners, porters, elevator operators, matrons and other service workers at most Broadway theaters, and is in dispute with the Broadway League concerning healthcare benefits.

This is the first time in around five years that Broadway has been threatened with a strike, and the union’s current contract expires on December 30.

“We have had several days of productive negotiations and have several more scheduled,” said Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin in a statement. “The Broadway League, and the members we represent, look forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ.”

Jessica Vargas, a cleaner with the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre and member of the union’s bargaining committee, recently spoke with the Associated Press about the negotiations. She said that she and her fellow workers make around $17 an hour, and that they are asking for an addition $1.50. She also notes that other cleaners around the city make around $25 an hour.

“We want to be equal with all cleaners all across New York City,” she said. “We get paid the lowest on Broadway.” She went on to say that if there is a strike, “It’s going to be tough on Broadway. It’s going to rough on the city. If we go on strike, the city goes on strike.”

A strike could be very damaging to Broadway, particularly during the typically busy holiday time at the end of December and beginning of January. The Broadway theater community was dealt a blow earlier this year from the immediate and lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy, and a strike could multiply troubles that already exist.