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IATSE Members’ 10-Year Struggle Shows Need for Labor Law Reform

Here’s a classic example of the need for national labor law reform. For 10 years, the members of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 500 have been trying to bargain a contract with the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

The stagehands picked up strong support for members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 728, who joined them recently on the picket line (see video above).

In March, Local 500 filed its second unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that management of the privately owned center illegally imposed its final offer on Jan. 17, after two years of negotiations failed to produce an agreement.


The latest round of talks began in December 2008, after a federal appeals court ruled that the center violated the law when it ejected the union and fired union workers in 2000. Local 500 had represented workers at the center since 1992.  The NLRB estimates that Kravis owes $3.6 million in back pay to those workers.  

“We believe that the Kravis is doing the same thing they did before under a different guise,” Matt Mierzwa, the union’s attorney, told the Palm Beach Daily News.

In 2001, after a lengthy investigation, attorneys for the regional director of the NLRB concluded that Kravis had committed “massive and continuous violations” of federal labor law when it unilaterally withdrew recognition of the union, refused to negotiate, discharged union-represented department heads and other major violations.

Kravis appealed the decision to the Bush–era NLRB, which took  five years to rule that Kravis was in continuous and uninterrupted violation of federal labor laws. The Kravis Center then stalled justice again by appealing the NLRB decision to the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In December 2008, the appeals court ruled against Kravis on every issue.

Under threat of civil contempt charges, Kravis resumed talks and reinstated the fired department heads. But on Jan. 17 this year, the Kravis Center declared an  impasse and imposed its final offer and illegally fired all the department heads again.

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