“Strike of Theater Workers Is 100 Per Cent”

Artifact Type Labor Newspapers, Sources
Publication Minnesota Union Advocate
Volume 31
Number 39
Page Number 1
Place St. Paul, MN
Publication Date September 29, 1927
Transcript Show/Hide

Headline: “Strike of Theater Workers Is 100 Per Cent”

Subhead: Stagehands’ Grievance Involves Motion Picture Operators, Musicians

Show Houses Blunder Along with Unskilled Help, Exhibiting to Small, Disgusted Audiences; Public Pays for Pleasure, Gets Torture

The strike of the theater workers of St. Paul and Minneapols is complete; stage employees, motion picture operators and musicians have all walked out in support of the demand of the Stage Employees for a “One Day Rest in Seven.” The motion picture operators and the musicians have no grievances but are involved through affiliations or agreements in concert with the Stage Employees.

In a paid advertisement of the theater managers it is intimated that the motion picture operators broke their agreement, and, on the same basis the musicians did likewise. The facts are that in the agreement of the motion picture operators and the musicians’ union with the theater managers, there is a clause specifically providing that in case of trouble involving affiliated organizations, the agreement with the employer is suspended and the obligation to the affiliated union takes precedence.

Mutual Support Vital

This provision is vital as the motion picture operators belong to the same international union and the musicians are bound by a national federated agreement. There has been no contract breaking on the part of the unions which have gone out in support of the Stage Employees—in fact, contracts have bene sustained at a sacrifice by the sympathetic strikers.

The theater employees, including the stage hands, motion picture operators and the musicians have regularly made agreements each year with the managers, and have reached satisfactory terms without any ill-feeling or drastic measures. In fact, the experience of the past led the Stage Employees’ union to feel that no trouble would be experienced this year, and the matter of an agreement was not pressed. When the time came for the renewal, the managers manifested an unfriendly attitude, and refused to give any consideration to the propositions of the union. Their belligerent manner admonished the Stage Employees that they were in for a fight. But to show that peace and not war was wanted a 17-day period was allowed by the union for further negotiations.

Scorned Peace Opportunity

The managers’ organization, which is a recent affair in the Twin City theater circles, disregarded the overtures of the Stage Employees and assumed to run things in its own “high and mighty” manner. There was no alternative left for the Stage Employees but to walk out at the expiration of the the 17-day grace period.

This year, as in previous years, the Stage Employees’ union submitted its agreement and the managers offered their proposition, the main improvement sought by the employees was the abolition of the seven-day week. Hitherto the Stage Employees have worked every day in the week when there was work to do and then were laid off. Not only were they obliged to work without interruption of a weekly rest day, but their hours were irregular and intermittent, working a few hours and waiting around to meet the exigencies of the business. This practice has come down from former years when labor had no voice in shaping working conditions and hours.

Slaves of Their Calling

The working hours of the Stage Employees made them veritable slaves of the trade, and there has been steady effort made to bring some sort of regulation in their working hours. In a large number of cities the six-day week has been established, and the move in the Twin Cities is in accord with this desirable and practical reform. Experience has demonstrated that it is possible to arrange the hours of employment so that the workers will be released from the treadmill at least one day in the week, even though he may have to work all sorts of hours during each of the remaining 24-hour days of the week.

The managers’ publicity agent is seeking to abscure [sic] the real issue by making the question one of wages. At present the wages are based on a six-day week, although the workers give seven days. The wages paid are meager at best and if they represent seven days’ compensation the workers are intitled [sic] to wage increases as well as a reduction in the length of the week! The matter of wages could be settled, but the “one day’s rest in seven” is the one point that the stage employees justly insist upon, as there are plenty of unemployed workers to fill in.

Other Demands Negligible

There were a number of other points in the agreement submitted to effect in the past, or, if new, were withdrawn so that the real question at issue is the matter of the number of days to be considered a week.

Of course the union insists on the right to review the reasons for the discharge of an employee. This is one of the main functions of a labor union—not only as a matter of justice to the worker, but for the preservation of the union. It is notorious that employers are ever ready to frame up some fancied reason for the discharge of the active union member, and unless the organization intercedes, this species of persecution would extinguish the union by driving out its active advocates. This is not new in the theater business, or in other trades, and it is now sought to make it out an unreasonable demand. It is an established practice and common sense.

Help Increased One-Sixth

Under the proposed six-day week, each worker employed would be relieved some day during the seven, and his place would be filled by an extra worker who would continue to fill the places of each of the other regular workers as their day for a layoff came. If there were six regular employees it would mean one additional worker for six days, and if more or less the additional worker or workers would be employed only for the time vacated. The claim that it would mean the increase of from six to ten workers is an unmitigated falsehood. Such statement is the work of an ignorant or malicious person.

The 30-week guarantee of employment does not apply to the force but to the man-in-charge. A number of the demands made were either withdrawn or they are misrepresented in the paid advertisements of the theater managers. The stage employees have stated to the theater managers that all demands except the “one day’s rest in seven” have been waived and reaffirm that position publicly and denounce the injection of other questions as an attempt to becloud the issue and win public sympathy.

Exhibits Bungled

The theaters are being run after a manner by the manager, the janitor and a motly crew of strike breakers. The pictures shown are all comics now, and the bungling exhibits furnish a sort of amusement for those who have the hardihood to venture into a show house during the present struggle.

The musicians, who furnish an essential part of the pleasure at the motion picture theaters, as well as the other shows, went out Saturday. This takes away at least 50 per cent of the joy of the theater, and combined with the crudity of the showing the theaters are a poor place to go for amusement these days.

“Carrion Birds” on the Move

Imported strike breakers have already appeared, and this confirms the believe of the strike leaders, that the entire affair is the result of deliberate scheme to “rat” the theaters of the Twin Cities. The stage employees and motion picture operators are bannering the struck theaters so that no on need be ignorant of the struggle.

Attention is called to the peril of attending performances at a motion picture show where the projecting machine is operated by an unskilled person. The fire hazard is always great and incomparably more so when the machinery is in the hands of a novice.

The striking workers involved feel their cause is just and expect the public to cooperate with them in effecting a settlement. It is largely a matter of public support. Theater amusement is not an essential and unless it is presented in an artistic manner it loses its effect. The striking theater employees ask the public to consider the justice of the strikers’ cause along with the inadequate return the patrons will get for their money and their own safety.

7-day Week is Barbarious

There is no reason why some should work seven days a week while many are wholly unemployed. This is the sort of slavery the labor-crushing gang seeks to establish. Help block this iniquitous condition by keeping away from the show houses until decent working conditions on the stage are put into effect.

Archive Union Advocate Digital Archives
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Citation “Strike of Theater Workers Is 100 Per Cent,” Minnesota Union Advocate, September 29, 1927.
Location MinneapolisMinnesotaSaint Paul