Kennedy Center reaches agreement with stagehand union, avoiding strike

The Kennedy Center announced Saturday an agreement had been reached with the union representing the art center’s stagehands, staving off a potential strike as their 50th anniversary season gets underway.

The breakthrough occurred two days after the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 22 chapter authorized a strike over contract disputes with the Kennedy Center.

“This was a long hard slog, but we now have a contract we can live with that protects our members and gives the Kennedy Center the relief it needs to recover from the pain caused by the pandemic,” IATSE Local 22 President David McIntyre said.

In a statement released Thursday, the union said the disagreements centered around pay, sparked by threats from the center to cut stagehand pay by 40%, eliminate jobs, “along with the imposition of other draconian cuts and changes to working conditions.”

The Kennedy Center had said negotiations stalled because of union demands its stagehands be used at off-site performances.

On Saturday, the Kennedy Center said an agreement had been reached with the union over the issues of wages, work rules and “a clarification of jurisdiction with regard to non-theater work at the Kennedy Center.”

That clarification, according to the union, extends IASTE’s reach “to the REACH, a new wing of the performing arts center.”

Both the Kennedy Center and IASTE confirmed that the new three-year contract covers 2020-2023, and stagehands will see “modest increases in wages and benefits by the end of the contract.”

In a statement, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said she was satisfied with the outcome of negotiations with the union.

“From the outset we have been open and transparent with the union regarding our financial challenges and the need for shared sacrifice across the institution. This new agreement falls within the parameters of the financial framework the Center’s leadership and board recognize will be critical for the Center’s long-term viability,” Rutter said.

The strike had previously threatened the production of Tony-Award winning musical “Hadestown” at the Kennedy Center, but that is expected to go on as planned now that contract issues have been settled.

WTOP’s Anna Gawel contributed to this report.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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