Nation | Music

How Do You Get Paid $400,000 At Carnegie Hall? Be A Stagehand

NPR | Oct. 4, 2013 10:04 a.m.

Contributed By:

Mark Memmott

In November 2004, the Grand Ole Opry came to Carnegie Hall.

In November 2004, the Grand Ole Opry came to Carnegie Hall.

Paul Hawthorne, Getty Images

Carnegie Hall’s opening night gala was canceled Wednesday because of a strike by stagehands.

That’s interesting, but the eye-popping part of the story is this: The Manhattan hall’s five full-time stagehands enjoy an “average total compensation of more than $400,000 a year,” which The New York Times adds is “more than some of the hall’s top executives earn.”

According to Bloomberg News, Carnegie Hall’s tax returns show that the full-time stagehands “earned an average of $420,000 in 2011. … They move equipment in and out of the building and prepare three stages for performances, while operating audiovisual and other equipment. They work on holidays and weekends.” According to the Times, tax records show the full-timers put in an average of 60 hours a week.

The hall also hires part-timers as needed.

The Village Voice says that the institution’s executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson, is “the only person in the entire non-profit that makes more money than every stagehand.” In 2012 he “took home a total of $1,113,571” in pay and benefits.

Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees isn’t striking because it thinks the pay is too low. The dispute, says The Wall Street Journal, is over the union’s push for its members to be employed in Carnegie’s new Education Wing, which is set to open in a year or so.

The two sides have been bargaining for 13 months. Local One President James Claffey says in a statement that “Carnegie Hall Corporation has spent or will spend $230 million on its ongoing studio tower renovation, but they have chosen not to appropriately employ our members as we are similarly employed throughout the rest of Carnegie Hall.”

Gillinson, the hall’s director, says in a statement: “We are disappointed that, despite the fact that the stagehands have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry, they are now seeking to expand their jurisdiction beyond the concert hall and into the new Education Wing in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall’s education mission.”

As of Thursday morning, no other performances had been canceled.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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