- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

NEW YORK Broadway musicals struck up their bands last night as orchestra members went back to work after a four-day strike that crippled the theater district.
The work stoppage, which officials said cost the city's economy about $72 million, ended after an all-night negotiating session Monday between theater owners and producers and leaders of the musicians union.
"Broadway is no longer dark," said a beaming Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg yesterday morning. He had summoned the warring parties to Gracie Mansion Monday night for the successful negotiations.
The four-year deal is a compromise on the main issue: how many musicians should play for performances at the city's largest theaters. The producers have agreed to hire at least 18 or 19 musicians with some flexibility for "special situation" musicals.
The unions had demanded that the minimum number of musicians on major productions be kept in the mid-20s. Producers wanted to reduce that number to 15. Unions saw the producers' proposal as a move to replace them eventually with recorded or "canned" music.
"Technology doesn't always win, and it didn't win this time," said Bill Moriarty, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians.
"While we have made some reductions in the house minimums, we have preserved live Broadway and we continue to have the largest staff minimums in the world."
The musicians went on strike Friday, joined by the actors and stagehands who refused to cross the picket lines in front of Broadway theaters, shutting down 18 Broadway musicals.
It did not affect dramatic plays, off-Broadway productions, or the musical "Cabaret," which has a separate contract because it is performed at Studio 54, the former dance club, rather than in a traditional theater.
The strike's ripple effect on New York's economy could not have come at a worse time for a city facing a $3.8 billion budget gap. The Great White Way contributes about $4.4 billion to the city's economy annually.
City officials estimated that last weekend theaters, hotels, restaurants and taxis lost about $7 million. Lost box-office revenue is put at $64.8 million.
"I pointed out to them the severe economic impact on a city still recovering from the terrible tragedy of the September 11 attack, the financial hardships being experienced by those employed in this and related industries, and the disappointment of theatergoers from around the world that the strike was causing," Mr. Bloomberg said.
The settlement was mediated by Frank J. Macchiarola, the city schools chancellor from 1978 to 1983 and president of St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
"When I first came to the negotiations, I asked the parties, 'Do you want to get it done?' and they all said 'Yes,'" Mr. Macchiarola said after the agreement was reached.
Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters, said, "Neither side got everything it wanted, and neither side was able to get through the process without making compromises."
Theater owners agreed to a 2.75 percent raise per year for the next four years and in one of its significant compromises, the owners allowed the union a greater say on the "special situations" panel. The group decides when a show can have fewer musicians than the theater's contracted minimum.
Many businessmen in the Times Square area said that if the strike had lasted a few days more, they would have begun laying off workers.
"In the end, both sides understood that we have to live and work together," said Mr. Bloomberg.

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