(January 19, 2007)---The AFL-CIO is asking union families to boycott the Blue Man Group, a theatrical production company headquartered in Las Vegas running shows concurrently in five U.S. cities: Las Vegas, Boston, New York, Chicago and Orlando. The company also produces Blue Man shows in London, Berlin and Toronto.
The decision to put Blue Man Productions on the official Boycott list was taken at the request of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) with support from dozens of performing arts unions in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
"This production bills itself as 'cutting edge' as an entertainment concept, but it is a throwback to the dark ages in labor relations," declared AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka. "Blue Man Productions is about to learn a harsh lesson in labor solidarity, an experience they could have avoided by simply acknowledging the right of their workers to bargain collectively."
IATSE's Las Vegas Local 720 was certified as the bargaining agent for stagehands employed by the company following a May 25, 2006 NLRB election. Officials from the Local stress employees are predominantly concerned with health care, retirement coverage and safety on the job. Efforts to negotiate an initial agreement for the 44 employees involved were stonewalled by Blue Man Productions management despite earlier pledges to abide by the outcome.
Nevertheless, the union has beat back company appeals at the regional and national level, where a three-member panel ultimately upheld the union's right to bargain and affirmed the unfair labor practice charges against the company. Blue Man Productions has appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. At the union's behest, attorneys for the NLRB lodged a counter motion to enforce its bargaining order with the appeals court. It may be months before the court acts.
Meanwhile, IATSE has secured pledges of support from 36 labor organizations including performing arts unions in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Norway and Germany as well as an endorsement from the massive Union Network International (UNI), an international confederation of 900 unions in 140 nations representing 15 million workers.
Stagehands for Blue Man Productions had a collective bargaining agreement through IATSE Local 720 until October 2005 when the company refused to renew that agreement after moving from the Las Vegas Luxor Hotel to its new Las Vegas venue at the non-union Venetian Hotel.