While most union workers might only dream of making six-figures per year, stagehands at New York’s Broadway theaters live the dream. Although their jobs are not highly skilled, and consist mainly of moving props, chairs, furniture and the like around a stage, they have the power and willingness to shut down any Broadway theater to get whatever they want come contract negotiation time.
One union worker, stagehand Dennis O’Connell, who is the props manager at Carnegie Hall, makes $422,599 per year—plus $107,445 in benefits. A New York Times reporter, Daniel J. Wakin, got the information on a 2007-2008 publicly-filed tax return of Carnegie Hall, which listed the theater’s six highest paid employees.
Besides the company’s chief executive, Clive Gillison, who made $946,581, the next five highest paid employees were all stagehands. The lowest-ranked member in the top five was electrician John Goodson, who made $327,257 plus $76,459 in benefits.
Although the stagehands at Carnegie Hall might be the best paid in town, the average pay of all the stagehands at nearby Lincoln Center, including salary and benefits, was $290,000.
The power to charge a business $300,000 to $500,000 for one laborer comes from Local 1, of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, which closed down 39 Broadway theaters in November 2007 for 19 days, causing tens of millions of dollars per week to be lost by theater owners, and the city.
So the next time you visit New York and wonder why all the theater tickets are $150 each or more, now you know at least part of the story.