Strathmore, theater union at odds over automating ticket sales

A music venue in Montgomery County, Maryland, is at odds with a workers’ union after a move aimed at safety during a pandemic threatened the job security of ticket employees.

Strathmore recently proposed ticket kiosks at the venue as in-person performances return, but the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said the move would threaten the job security of ticket workers.

“They, in their last proposal, are proposing using kiosks, machines essentially, to do the work of the ticket office, for people to buy tickets and print tickets using machines, instead of a person,” said Ann Vantine, the business agent for IATSE Local 868. “They’re also, at the same time, proposing eliminating all full-time positions.”

Bethesda Beat reports Strathmore laid off 19 unionized workers in the ticket office in July 2020 due to the financial strain of the pandemic.

Strathmore CEO Monica Hazangeles told Bethesda Beat on Thursday that of the 19 ticket workers, the two full-time workers have been brought back and the 17 part-timers have been brought back “as needed.” She said none of the positions will be eliminated.

“They’re saying that it’s to supplement the workforce, not eliminate it, but you can’t supplement the workforce with kiosks, or say that you’re doing that, and then at the same time propose eliminating all full-time positions,” Vantine said. “So, that is an untrue statement.”

Hazangeles told Bethesda Beat that Strathmore plans to lease the kiosks, instead of buying them, and that even before the pandemic, 85% of tickets at the venue were bought online. She said the venue is working with ticket employees and added that Strathmore “really value[s] our employees and the union process.”

The union held a protest Sunday in front of Strathmore and greeted patrons to the venue by telling them Strathmore is not treating its ticket office staff well.

“The end goal is to preserve the jobs,” Vantine said. “If they want to use machines to supplement the workforce, we’re not necessarily opposed to that from a COVID-safety standpoint. But what we are opposed to is it taking the jobs away from people who’ve been doing them for quite a while.”

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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