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April 30, 2017
HISTORY
Local No.4 History
Feb 17, 2009

A Short History of

Theatrical Stage Employes Local No.4, IATSE


 

By Peter J Fitzpatrick                                                                                                                 January 2009



 

Introduction


 

            Theatrical Stage Employes Local No.4, IATSE is an organization that has withstood the test of time for over 120 years. The Local No.4 story begins at the infancy of trade unionism in a city called Brooklyn. The early history of Local No.4 and the city of Brooklyn are a shared experience. The city of Brooklyn is incorporated in 1834. By 1884, Brooklyn is the third largest city in the U.S.A. only New York City and Philadelphia are larger. At this time, Brooklyn is a city creating a rich cultural tradition in the arts and sciences.

            Legitimate, Stock, Vaudeville and Burlesque theatres abound throughout Brooklyn. At one point, there are over 200 theatres in Brooklyn. It is a tragedy that hardly any of these theatres exist today. The Brooklyn Academy of Music, America’s oldest performing arts center is built in1861. It burns to the ground on November 30th, 1903. It is rebuilt and opened again in the fall of 1908. Today, BAM is the premiere performing arts center in Brooklyn and a major employer of Local No. 4 members.

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            The Majestic Theatre, built in 1904 survives today as part of BAM {The Harvey Theatre}. When it first opens, it is considered one of the most important theatres in Brooklyn. Its early programming consists of out of town tryouts, pre-openings to Broadway runs and shows that couldn’t be held over on the New York stages. Later on it splits its programming between Legit, Vaudeville and picture shows. During the depression, the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) Federal Theatre produces numerous shows at the Majestic throughout the thirties. The Majestic eventually becomes a movie theatre. It is abandoned in 1968. BAM spends five million dollars to renovate the theatre and reopens it in October of 1987. The Majestic Theatre now the Harvey Theatre is once again the most important theatre in Brooklyn.

            The American Industrial Revolution in 1850 introduces assembly line techniques. Hugh factories reduce the production of goods into mechanical units. Labor becomes expendable and interchangeable; The American working class in the 19th century is at the mercy of the employers. Wages and conditions at the workplace depend solely on the whims of the employer. Life outside the workplace is deplorable and existence is day to day for many workers. Most of the early unions in America fail because of employer opposition.




 

It is common to prosecute labor unions as conspiracies in restraint of trade. This is a doctrine based on English common law, and places labor unions at an enormous disadvantage. It isn’t until 1842 when Justice Lempel Shaw, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, hands down the historic decision that unions have a legal right to exist and did not constitute conspiracies.”(M.B Schnapper pg. 25)


 

            The earliest organization representing theatre workers in Brooklyn is the Theatrical Mechanical Association organized in 1866. It offers relief to sick members and assistance to deceased member’s families. On December 28th, 1869 the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor is born.


 

It grew into a dynamic labor organization that paved the way to many of the economic, social, and political gains American wage earners enjoy today.”(Schnapper, pg 130)

 

            In 1869, work begins on the Brooklyn Bridge, which when completed in 1883 irrevocably changes the future of Brooklyn. The early success of the Knights of Labor inspires workers all across the nation to organize into trade unions.


 

            This history of Local No. 4 will be separated into five time periods of 25 year intervals. The first period 1887 to 1912 relates the struggles of the Theatrical Progressive Union organizing theatres in Brooklyn and its part in the formation and early history of the National Association of Theatre Stage Employes now the IATSE. The second period 1913 to 1938 examines Local No. 4 and the Golden age of theatre in Brooklyn and Queens, the hardships of Local No. 4 during the depression and the beginning of the end of live theatre in Brooklyn and Queens as picture shows become the main feature. The third period 1939 to 1964 begins with the 1939 World’s Fair and ends with the 1964 World’s Fair. In between these two World Fairs are World War Two, the Korean War and the Cold War. Also during this period is a little invention called television. Local No. 4 would work on many of the live NBC shows at its Brooklyn Studios. Local No. 4 would construct many of the great shows for television and Broadway in its scenic shops during this time. The fourth period 1965 to 1990 beckons the return of Local No. 4 to live entertainment with a revitalized BAM and the advent of the outdoor rock show venue. The fifth period 1991 to the present chronicles the struggles of Local No. 4 efforts to organize new work in an increasingly hostile anti-union environment and reinvent itself as it as it enters its third century, the 21st.


 

            As you read this history, look beyond the written words. Think of the struggles, the sacrifice, the skills and determination of those members of Local No. 4 who lived and died throughout its history. Remember that during the bad times the glue that holds them together is their union. Honor those who went before us by carrying their mantle of unionism into future battles. Never forget the determination and skills that got us to where we are today. Strive to capture the same skill and determination so that one day you may pass them on to future members as they were passed onto you.

1887 to 1912


 

On May 1st, 1887, the Brooklyn Eagle reports on new labor organization representing theatre workers in Brooklyn.


 

An organization of stage hands, property men, carpenters and machinists has been effected as the Theatrical Progressive Union. The union begins its control of the play houses on the 1st of June, after which time no employee will be allowed to have charge of more than one department; stage hand work will commence 15 minutes before the curtain rises, they are not to assist the fly man, and the system of employing actors, supers, and other incompetent persons to do the work of carpenters, stagehands, gas and property men in the theatres or with traveling companies is to be abolished forthwith.” (Brooklyn Eagle May 1st, 1887)


 

The demands of the Theatrical Progressive Union are met with a dismissive attitude by the theatre managers.


 

All this is very fine no doubt, but the managers don’t think so. At a gathering the other day at which all the representative men were present, it was informally agreed that the fraternity would resist the encroachments and dictatorial attitude of the Theatrical Progressive Union.” (Brooklyn Eagle May 1st, 1887)


 

The battleground for recognition becomes the Grand Opera House.


 

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The members of the Theatrical Progressive Union are still agitating trouble between the managers of the Grand Opera House and their stagehands. They have issued the following circular” Messrs. Knowles and Morris proprietors of the Grand Opera House on the 12th day of November notified scene shifters employed at the rate of $1 per night, that on and after Monday November 14th, they would have to give their services each Monday morning without pay, and that if they did not they would lose their night work.” (Brooklyn Eagle January 15th, 1888.)


 

A small headline in the Brooklyn Eagle on April 8th, 1888 reads:


 

                                                                                                                    Moving for Recognition

The Theatrical Progressive Union will today hold a meeting for the purpose of considering such actions shall be deemed necessary to bring Messrs. Knowles & Morris to recognition of the rights of their scene shifters and stage hands.”





 

                                                                                            On April 8th, 1888 thirty men sign a charter. It is the birth of Local No. 4.These thirty men will always be remembered for this historic deed and for their legacy of trade unionism, tradition and brotherhood.

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It is on July 17, 1893 that Brothers Henry H Harvey and James E. Walker as representatives of the Theatrical Progressive Union, Brooklyn, meet with the representatives of stage hands from N.Y.C., Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, Buffalo, Syracuse and St. Louis at Elk’s Hall NYC. At this meeting they form the National Association of Theatre Stage Employes, later to be known as the International Alliance. The purpose of this alliance was to coordinate and protect on a national level, the jurisdiction and shared interests of these theatrical unions.

Local No.4 becomes a driving force in the formation and future success of the organization.


 

                                                                                            In 1897 Steeple chase Park opens in Coney Island. In 1902 Luna Park and then Dreamland in 1904 join with Steeplechase Park in Coney Island.

            On July 9-14th, 1900 Local No.4 hosts the 8th Annual Convention at the Brooklyn Athenaeum .Local 4 ushers the Alliance into the twentieth century. With the City of Brooklyn becoming the Borough of Brooklyn on January 1st, 1898, Local No. 4 is referred to as New York (B of B) Local No.4.


 

 “The eight annual convention was called to order by National President W.D.B. Wiggins at 9:55 A.M. who took pleasure in introducing President Joseph Walsh of New York (B. of B.) Local 4, who in a few words welcomed the delegates to Brooklyn and assured them of a pleasant week and trusted that business would be transacted in a harmonious way and that success would crown our efforts.” (Minutes: eighth annual convention July 9th, 1900)



 

On July 26th, 1902 at the 10th annual convention the NATSE becomes the IATSE. On July 21st, 1910 the IA issues Local No. 4 a new charter giving Local No. 4 jurisdiction of Brooklyn, Queens, Suffolk, and Nassau.

In 1911, Dreamland burns to the ground.


 

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During the first 25 years Local No. 4 grows into an organization of over 300 members. This growth is solely due to Local No. 4’s organizing efforts throughout its jurisdiction. It is not easy. The theatre managers fight tooth and nail to keep Local No. 4 out of their theatres. Strikes are fairly common. The members of Local No.4 stick together and the local continues to grow successfully as it approaches its 25th anniversary.



 

1913 to 1938


 

Local No. 4 celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 8th, 1913 at the Labor Lyceum.

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On this occasion it is not our intention to give you a complete history of our grand organization. Therefore as brevity is the soul of wit, suffice it to say that in the year 1888 there were only eight locals of our craft in existence. Since that time, year after year, city after city has enrolled under the banner of our Alliance, until at present time we have 256 locals, 36 provisional branch locals and 20 auxiliary locals, making a grand total of 312 theatrical locals one of which is located in every principal city in the United States and Canada. A record that any labor organization might well is proud of .” (25th anniversary souvenir journal)


 

                                                     Theatre flourishes throughout Local No. 4’s Jurisdiction. As the motion picture industry grows many theatres have a format that consists of six acts of Vaudeville, a feature photoplay, a comedy and a newsreel.




 

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Well I came in because of a change in the theaters. When the theatres started to change from legitimate to vaudeville and pictures that’s when I came in. Because the stage hands of the days before me didn’t think Vaudeville was worth working. So we young fellows were taken in to rush out and hang the sign on and to run back and run the switchboard and to run over there and push the piano out. We’d have four or five men in a house, but with legitimate theatre, you’d have fifty, sixty men sometimes and maybe more.

You maintained the electrical equipment, you maintained the seats in a theatre, you changed the attraction signs, you repaired the lines when they got worn out or weren’t safe anymore, you knew it was, you done everything in theatre that was necessary to keep the theatre working.” (Interview: Richard Walsh 1987)



 

Richard Walsh enters Local No. 4 as an apprentice at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in 1917. After two years as an electrician, third class in the navy during World War 1, he receives his journeyman’s card from Local No. 4. Brother Walsh was elected President of Local No. 4 in 1925 and Business Agent in 1926, a post he holds until 1938. Richard Walsh is elected an International Vice-President in 1934. In 1940 he is again elected President of Local No. 4. and served in that capacity until 1959. In 1941, he becomes International President of the Alliance. A position he is elected to through 1974. During his tenure as International President, Richard Walsh is an important figure in the international labor movement. He is elected a Vice-President of the AFL-CIO in 1955. He is also President of the AFL-CIO Label and Service Trades Department, chairman of the AFL-CIO Committee on Safety and Occupational Health, President of the Inter-American Federation of Entertainment Workers, chairman of the Board of Directors Of the Will Rogers Hospital Inc. and director of the Union Labor Life Company and the Council of Motion Picture Organizations. President Emeritus Walsh passes away on August 13th, 1992.” (IA Journal Autumn-1992 No. 558)


 

I want to say that this is probably the proudest moment of my life. Starting as an apprentice boy in a local union and being introduced as the International President. I don’t think any man in the labor movement could ask for more.” (Minutes IA Convention 1942)


 

World War 1 ends on November 11th ,1918. Twenty percent of the IA membership serve our country in the armed forces during the war. God bless all who served. In 1922, the IA issues a new charter creating Local 340. The charter gives the jurisdiction of Nassau and Suffolk counties to Local No. 340. The jurisdiction of Local No. 4 is now Brooklyn, Queens, and the Rockaways.

            As the motion picture industry begins to grow, B.F.Keith, Albee, Brandt, Fox, Century theatres, Paramount and Loew build new theatres throughout Brooklyn and Queens.


 

They are the Goliaths’ of the theatre industry and Local No.4 is a “David” for the stagehands: organizing new theatres, providing skilled tradesmen and negotiating decent wages and working conditions.

            Opening night at the Alpine Theatre, June 7, 1921, you have Sophie Tucker, Virginia Demarest, Hope Hampton, Minty Blue, Ted Lewis and Ray and Hitchcock starring in a grand vaudeville revue.

            In 1925, the Albee Theatre opens on DeKalb and Fulton Streets. It has a distribution plant in the basement with a lighting load capacity of 900,000 watts, the equivalent of 470 horsepower. It has furnishings and collections worth two million dollars.

             The advent of sound films in 1926 creates bigger audiences and a need for higher capacity, professionally equipped theatres. The industry outdoes itself in Brooklyn and Queens by erecting showpiece movie palaces with exotic, ornate interiors and showy facades. The RKO Keith’s Theatre is built in Flushing, along with the Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Jamaica, and the Loew’s Triboro Theatre in Astoria. In Brooklyn, the Loew’s Kings’ Theatre, the Pitkin, the Fox, and the Paramount are built.

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All deluxe houses are built in exclusive areas of Brooklyn with top talent and opening with first showing features. In most cases the star of the feature would make a personal appearance. All of these theatres had a full crew of stage hands: carpenter and assistant, electrician and assistant, fly man, prop man and assistant.” (Interview Jimmy Hutchinson 1987)

 

The crash of 1929 brought the growth of theatre in Brooklyn to a dead stop. The “talkies” would soon start to push vaudeville off the stages, Burlesque would be ended by moral outcry and Local 4 would again face the challenges of a depression, anti-unionism and a changing business. Many Local No. 4 members work the Steeplechase in Coney Island the W.P.A, shows at the Majestic Theatre, and operas and ballets at BAM.


 

I would have to say the same as all other industries Unemployment and people not attending the theatre and things like that. Most stagehands rather than do nothing and receive no pay will do anything and usually are clever enough to do it” (Interview Richard Walsh 1987)

             

            Unemployment during the depression reaches a high point of 28%. In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act authored by Senator Robert Wagner is passed. The new law guarantees workers:


 

 “The right to self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” (NLRA 1935)


 

            In August 1936, the CIO, is read out of the AFL and becomes the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The nineteen thirties is an era of open warfare between Labor and Big Business. The violence orchestrated by Big Business against the unions is horrific. . Companies hire spies, armed vigilantes and armed private security. The police serve the interest of the Companies. Union organizers are beaten and killed during organizing drives.


 

In Chicago on Memorial Day, 1937, police attack an impromptu parade of Republic Steel workers and their families. Ten marchers are killed (seven shot in the back), 30 others are shot and 28 are so badly beaten that they and require hospitalization.” (Schnapper pg.506)

 

            On Tuesday evening April 19th, 1938, Local No. 4 celebrates its Golden Anniversary at the St George Hotel.


 

It seems only yesterday that thirty of us were all together signing that charter which was the foundation of Local No.4, and, when we look at our many accomplishments, over this short period of years, we have every reason to be proud.”(Local No. 4 Golden Anniversary Journal 1938, original charter members, Bernard J. Ryan and Chas. E Godwin)


 

  

1939 to 1964

 

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            The Golden Age of theatres in Brooklyn and Queens reaches the end of its rainbow in 1939. However a pot of gold called the Worlds Fair is the great finale of this age. Local 4 is the only IA local to work two Worlds Fairs. The first World’s Fair runs from 1939 to 1940 and the second from 1964-65.

            The 1939-1940 World’s fair is a wonderland of exhibits, pavilions, and entertainment. The theme of the fair is “Building the World of Tomorrow” It is a show that Local No.4 puts on to the delight of 26,000,000 people. From “Railroads on Parade” to “the Life Saver parachute jump” (later moved to Coney Island), Local No.4 makes the fair a success on every level of entertainment. Big corporations display the latest technology. RCA introduces television to the American public. The opening ceremony and events at the fair are televised, and NBC begins regularly scheduled broadcasts. In 1940 the bright lights of this great fair slowly dim into the darkness of W.W. II.

            During the war the men of Local No.4 distinguish themselves on the battlefield and at home. Local No. 4 does its share of war bond drives and builds displays and outside platforms used for the bond effort.

In 1944, Luna Park burns to the ground.



 

            The big bands dance their way across the stages of the Paramount and Fox theatres. There is Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Kaye and Glenn Miller to name a few. The war ends in 1945. Many members of Local No. 4 who served in the armed forces return to work after the war. God bless all who served. The Loews and RKO circuits try unsuccessfully to revive Vaudeville on the weekends, but most of the theatres live and die by the big screen. Legitimate, stock, and vaudeville become memories in the hearts of those stagehands who worked the shows and the audience entertained by them. A few theatres have Burlesque till the mid sixties. Stage crews for many of the theatres reduce to three men.


 

            After the war, Corporate America declares a new war on the unions. In 1947, the Taft Hartley Act passes Congress.


 

            Some of the most important collective bargaining rights obtained by unions under Roosevelt’s New Deal were banned or circumscribed by the Taft-Hartley Act. The closed shop was outlawed and the union shop allowed only if approved by the majority of workers. In addition, the check-off of union dues, collection of welfare funds, and contract duration provisionswere also placed under restrictive regulation.”(Schnapper pg.548)

  

            After two world wars, a great depression, adverse changes in the entertainment industry in Local No. 4’s jurisdiction, and constant anti-unionism, Local No. 4 survives.

            In June 1950, the Korean War begins. It ends in July 1953. God bless all who served.

            In 1950 N.B.C. opens studio 1 in Brooklyn on Ave M. In 1954 NBC opens studio 2 adjacent to studio 1.Many of the great moments of television would take place in these studios:

 

            Robert Montgomery Presents, the Esther Williams Aqua Special, The Sammy Davis Jr. Show, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Bell Telephone Hour, Henry Aldrich, Max Lieberman Showcase, Diary of Anne Frank, Babes in Toyland, The Sinking of the Lusitania, The Mitch Miller Show, The Hit Parade, Circus Time, Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, The Perry Como show, the Landing on the Moon, Hullaballoo, Episodes of Saturday Night Live.” (Interview, Jimmy Hutchison, 1987)

 

            From the Operas of Verdi to the soap operas of Texas and Another World and from the Comedy of Milton Burle to the laughter of the Bill Cosby Show the men of Local 4 No. not only work these shows, but built them in the N.B.C. shop.


 

            It was not uncommon for the men to work around the clock for 2or 3 days in row. Even today 16 hours a day is not uncommon in Studio 1 for the Another World show.”(Interview Jimmy Hutchinson 1987)


 

            Television changes the entertainment industry. Brooklyn and Queens change. The theatres become almost exclusively movie houses as the fifties come to an end.


 

The work in the theatres consists of occasional professional and community shows, rock music shows at the Fox and Paramount theatres and school graduations. Stage hand crews are reduced depending on the size and maintenance needs of the theatre .Shift work becomes the standard. Although 3D and cinemascope are introduced in the theatres during the nineteen fifties, the theatres continue to decline.

            John Coleman after serving in the navy during the Second World War is initiated as a member of Local No. 4 in May of 1947. John is elected Vice- President of Local No. 4 in 1957. He becomes Business Manager in 1959, where he would serve Local No. 4 for the next 36 years.

            John Coleman works to keep our presence in the movie theatres by signing maintenance contracts with the theatre owners. Local No. 4 becomes one of the few locals still doing maintenance in these theatres. In 1962, he starts a pension fund for the members of Local No. 4.


 

            On April 18th, 1963 at the St. George Hotel, Local No. 4 celebrates Its Diamond Anniversary.

 

On behalf of myself, I extend to the members of Local No. 4 my personal greetings and my appreciation for having been given the privilege of being a member of your Local union since 1917.Without the privilege of membership and the complete backing of the members of Local No.4, I could not have reached the height of becoming the President of this International Union. Tonight we honor the pioneers who seventy-five years ago organized this great union. Their foresight and their accomplishments as union men have given us all the privilege of being here tonight and celebrating this, our Seventy –fifth Anniversary.” (Richard Walsh, IA President- Souvenir Journal 1963)

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In 1964, the World’s Fair comes to Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, also the site of the 1939 World’s Fair. John Coleman is named Chairman of the Entertainment Unions Council which organizes the World’s Fair. John not only successfully negotiates work for Local No. 4 but for all the other entertainment locals.

 

            It is the largest World's Fair held in the United States occupying nearly a square mile (2.6 km²) of land. Hailing itself as a "Universal and International" exposition, the Fair's theme was "Peace through Understanding," dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." The theme was symbolized by a twelve-story high, stainless-steel model of the earth called the Unisphere. United States corporations dominate the exposition as exhibitors. The Fair is best remembered as a showcase of mid-twentieth century American culture and technology. The nascent Space Age, with its vista of promise was well-covered by the exhibits. More than fifty-one million people attend the Fair.” (Wikipedia)

 

            Local No.4 members work throughout the World’s Fair. Some of the pavilions, shows, and theatres they work in are the RCA, Chrysler, Hawaiian, IBM, AT&T, NYS, DuPont, Spanish, General Cigar, Am phi-theatre, Singer Bowl, Hollywood, Allied, Crystal Palace, Puppet Show, and Sea Hunt.

            In 1964, Shea Stadium, the new home of the NY Mets and future home of the NY Jets, opens. Steeplechase Park closes in 1964.



 

1965-1990


 

            As the theatres decline other work opportunities in television arise such as the US Tennis Open at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, work for the other Networks, outdoor rock concerts, and the growth of Local No. 4’s scenic shops. John Coleman organizes whatever comes his way. He organizes the many scenic shops doing business in our jurisdiction. There is the NBC Scenic Shop, Steigelbauer Associates Inc, Nolan’s Scenery Studios Inc, Staging Scenic Studios, City Scenic later to become Variety Scenic Studios, the Metro Shop, Showtech, and the Kliegl Bros.’ electric Shop.

            The Vietnam War begins in 1965.


 

            Nolan’s Scenery shop is a legend throughout the entertainment industry. It is initially a full service shop, but later becomes a “paint” shop. Some of the Broadway shows built by Nolan’s shop are “The Sound of Music”, “Man of La Mancha”, “Funny Girl”, “Hello Dolly”, etc….. Nolan’s shop is involved with the restoration of the Ford Theatre in Washington DC. It also builds many of the sets for the City Center and numerous ballets and opera productions. Nolan’s becomes a “paint’ shop. Metro Shop opens and builds the sets painted by Nolan’s. Metro goes on to build “Dream Girls”, “Cats”, “Sophisticated Ladies”, “Anna Christi”, “Merlin”, Night of 100 Stars”, “Private Lives”, The Great White Hope”, the “Tony Awards” etc……

                                                     Variety Scenic Studios opens in 1970. This shop gains a great reputation building sets for Broadway and Television. Among some of its accomplishments on Broadway are “The Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “The Who’s Tommy”, “Damn Yankees”, “The Secret Garden”, and Crazy for You”, etc... In Television, some of the shows they build are “Barney’s Great Adventure”, “Goosebumps”, “Rug rats”, and projects for the “Regis and Kathie Lee Show”, CNBC, MSNBC, the Food Network, etc…

                                                     The NBC shop is a full service scenic shop which builds the sets for the great NBC shows in the Brooklyn Studios. This shop will move its location several times. It closes in 1988.

                                                     In 1984, Mike Steigelbauer opens Steigelbauer Associates Inc., a full service scenery shop, at 29 Front Street. The Steigelbauer shop moves to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1988 and begins to build scenery for “Another World.” In 1989, the shop begins to build scenery for “Saturday Night Live.” Over the years, the Steigelbauer shop will build scenery and store scenery and props for all the P&G soap operas, continue to build and store “Saturday Night Live”, and build and store scenery and props for a multitude of theatre, television and trade show productions.


 

            On February 6th, 1966, Fabian’s Fox Theatre, a Brooklyn landmark and the second biggest theatre in the state, second only to Radio City Music Hall, closes as a movie theatre.

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John Coleman organizes many indoor and outdoor theatre and musical productions. There are shows in Prospect Park, Shea Stadium, Forest Hills Stadium, the NYS Pavilion, the Aquacade, the Singer Bowl, the Paramount, and the Fox Theatre. (Even though it is closed to pictures shows)

John organizes productions from Murray the Kay at the Fox in 1966, to the Beatles at Shea in 1965, to Sinatra and the Doors at Forest Hills, to Jimmy Hendrix at the Singer Bowl, Shakespeare Theatre in Prospect Park, to the Met Opera and NY Philharmonic in the parks, Led Zeppelin at the NYS Pavilion and on and on, every outstanding musical act popular during this time at every imaginable venue. He also organizes many theatrical and television warehouses. There are The Met Opera, the Joffre Ballet, the American Ballet, and the ABC and Steigelbauer television warehouses. He organizes “The Cosby Show” when it moves out of NBC Studios to Kaufman Astoria Studios in 1987. He organizes “Sesame Street” when it moves from Manhattan to KAS. He organizes game shows and TV pilots at Silver cup Studios. With the help of the IA, he organizes in 1982 the maintenance workers, engineers and cleaners at KAS.

            In 1964, John Coleman is named the Legislative Chairman of the 10th District of the IATSE. In 1966, he becomes a Vice- President of the AFL-CIO. In 1971, John starts our Welfare Fund which will provide medical insurance for the members. In 1982, John starts the Annuity fund. John serves as Fund Administrator, Investment advisor, and Trustee for all the Local No. 4 Funds. He also serves as Trustee for the IATSE Funds.


 

            The Vietnam War ends in June of 1973. God bless all who served.


 

            On August 3rd, 1981, 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization walk off the job. President Reagan fires and eventually replaces all the air traffic controllers. There union is de-certified.


 

Ken Moffet (chief federal mediator at the tine) calls this strike a “calamity”, not just for the fired air-traffic controllers, but for unions everywhere. Back in 1981, labor negotiations centered on the size of workers raises. Subsequently, management began going after all unions for concessions and laying people off, he says.”(1981 Strike Leaves Legacy for American Workers, Kathleen Schalch, NPR, 1/25/09)


 

            In 1880 only 1.7% of the private work force is unionized. In 1953, 32% of the private work force is unionized. By 2007, only 9% of the private work force is unionized.


 

            On May 13th 1988, Local no. 4 celebrates its Centennial Anniversary.


 

Local No. 4 stands as a shining example, for all to see and emulate, of how much good can be achieved, by the honest, hard working and united endeavors of union members, to protect and advance the lot of those who labor and sustain themselves.” (Alfred W. DiTolla, IA President, Souvenir Journal, 1988)


 

1990 to the present.


 

            One by one the grand Theatres of Brooklyn and Queens close or become multi- theatres. There are but a few maintenance jobs remaining in the theatres and those end with the nineties. The entertainment business has changed radically for Local no. 4 over the years. Work for members of Local No.4 consists of productions with short runs or productions which come and go haphazardly. For consistent work there exists only BAM, NBC studios, KAS and the few remaining scenic shops.

            The Gulf War begins in 1990 and ends in 1991. God bless all who served.

            In 1992, the Bill Cosby Show ends, and Sesame Street moves from Manhattan to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. Local No. 4 signs a contract with Lincoln Scenic to do the show. Later on Local No. 4 signs a contract with Baer Hands TV to do the show.

            On August 13th, 1992, Richard Walsh, President Emeritus of the IA and Local No. 4’s favorite son, passes away.

            On November 1st, 1995, John J. Coleman Jr. retires as the Business Agent.

 

            I would especially like to thank Brother John Coleman for his thirty six years of outstanding services as Business Agent. I am very proud to have served with him for 25 years as President of Local No. 4 and for 15 years as an officer working to fulfill the promise of the Pension Party to give the members of this local good Pension, Health, and Annuity Plans.

As we proudly retire into the wings we pass the torch of leadership over to the younger members to carry on the solid traditions of this Local.”(Jimmy Hutchinson, President of Local No. 4, Retirement Dinner Dance Souvenir Journal, June 8th, 1996.)


 

            Pete Fitzpatrick, an officer on the Local No. 4’s Executive Board for 12 years, is appointed Business Agent in September of 1995 and then is elected in May of 1996. He pledges to the members that he will carry on the great traditions of Local No. 4. He pledges to be a bridge for Local No. 4 to the 21st century. He pledges to organize new work and to hold on to our present work. As Fund Administrator and Trustee for Local No.4’s Pension, Health and Annuity Funds, he carries on the legacy of John Coleman by constantly looking to improve benefits for the participants. Business Agent Pete Fitzpatrick is appointed Vice –President of the NYS AFL-CIO and is also appointed to the executive board of the IA 10th District in 1996.

            Under his leadership, the Local begins its first newsletter and webpage.

At a special meeting of the Executive Board in July of 1996, education programs for the members are discussed, and an education survey letter is approved for mailing. Education is a constant theme throughout his administration. Many seminars and courses are offered to the membership.

            The Local institutes a policy of paying tuition for members taking stagecraft courses at the Brooklyn College of Technology. Seminars and classes at all levels of stage technology are offered to the members. Apprenticeship programs at the scenic shops are restarted.


 

             In May of 1996, Local No.4 celebrates its first Triennial Retirement Dinner- Dance Celebration. In July of 1996, the local purchases a new computer system. In September of 1996 Local No. 4 begins a new tradition for the Labor Day Parade: bagpipes and Texas Barbeque. To improve service to the members, the Executive Board approves the hiring of a full time employee to work on the Funds and the day to day operations of the Local. Direct Deposit for pension checks is implemented.

            New membership rules are instituted which are fair and equitable. Local No. 4’s first female members are initiated in January, 1998.

            Organizing new work is made difficult by a growing alternative non -union work force. Non Union scenic shops become a threat to our union shops. Non-union labor companies look to do our work in television, concerts and theatre. When republicans gain power, labor laws are slanted in favor of the employers.

             In 1995, Local No. 4 organizes the pope’s visit to Aqueduct Race Track. The new Cosby Show at KAS is organized and begins taping in August of 1996. Delphi Scenic Studios is organized. “Aliens in the Family” at KAS is organized. A tri- lateral agreement is negotiated between BAM, Local No.4, and Local One to do “Zingaro”, a theatrical show, at Battery Park City in Manhattan. It begins in August of 96. A religious revival show is organized at Shea Stadium. A Diana Ross concert is organized at Forrest Hills Tennis Stadium.

            “13 Bourbon Street” is organized in May of 1996. In November of 1996, IA President Short rules that the jurisdiction of this show belongs to Local 52 and orders Local No. 4 to disavow its contract. Local No. 4 under threat of trusteeship by President Short cedes jurisdiction. An election in December of 1996 to organize stage maintenance workers at Silvercup Studios ends in a tie and ties are wins for the employer.

            In 1997, the Health Fund changes providers from Healthease to Blue Choice Select HMO. Health care costs and proscription drug costs are out of control. It is a constant battle to keep the Local No. 4 Health Fund solvent. On April 15th, 1998, the Annuity Plan becomes a self-participatory or self directed plan administered by Merrill Lynch. Monthly pension checks are increased by 14% over a two year period. Early retirement reduction is lowered. Spousal beneficiary benefits improve.

            “Soul Man” a new Disney TV sit/com is organized at KAS in 1997. “The Bear in the Big Blue House” a children’s TV show also at KAS is organized the same year through Variety Scenic Shop. Local No. 4 pickets and eventually organizes A Reggae-CaribFest at Forrest Hills Stadium. The USTA opens Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium and hosts the USTO. Two concerts are organized at this venue. Local No. 4 negotiates TV contracts for the first time with the USA network and CBS to man the tennis open.

The Ford Lincoln Car Display is organized at the USTO. The first annual Local no. 4 Christmas party is held at Buckley’s Tavern on December 16th, 1997. Showman Fabricators, a non-union shop in our jurisdiction, is organized. There contract commences on December 1st, 1997.

            The years 1998 to 2000 are tumultuous years for Local no. 4. In May of 1998, Disney cancels “Soul Man”. The “Cosby Show” is cancelled the following year. In June of 1999, NBC cancels “Another World” and closes the studios. Delphi Scenic Studios goes out of business. Variety Scenic Studios goes out of business, but, under a plan encouraged by Local No. 4, Variety Scenic merges with Showman Fabricators and no jobs are lost.

                                                                  In September, 1999, the local meets with Mike Steigelbauer and devises a plan to keep the NBC studios open as JC Studios. P&G proposes to move “As the World Turns”, a soap opera, to JC Studios. Local No. 4 in conjunction with the IA organizes JC Studios wall to wall. JC studios sign an IA contract in December, 1999.The studio survives and prospers. Local No. 4 survives and prospers.

             Brother William Meems, long time Recording Secretary for Local No. 4, passes away on January 2, 2001. Local No. 4 starts The Bill Meems Scholarship Fund, an Annual Scholarship awarded to the children of Local No. 4. members who will be attending college.

            In order to insure the best possible Health Care for the members of Local No. 4, on January 1st, 2000, the local merges its welfare fund with the IATSE National Health and Welfare Fund, and immediately becomes a participant in Plan ‘A’. It is a tremendous plan with great benefits, but also an expensive plan. A supplemental benefit program to aid members who lose their health coverage is implemented in 2002.


 

keyspan.jpg

KeySpan Stadium opens in the summer of 2001. Over the years Local No 4 organizes numerous concerts and events at the Stadium: boxing promoters, AEG Live, Bowery Presents, Live Nation, etc… Shea Stadium, after years of inactivity, is active again. The Met Opera and NY Philharmonic in the parks have full schedules during the summer months.

             In October of 2001, Mass Mutual replaces Merrill Lynch as provider for record keeping and investment services for the Annuity Plan.


 

            On September 11th, 2001, the terrorist attack the World Trade Center. The world as we know comes to an end. Afghanistan is invaded on January 1st, 2002.


 

             Local No. 4 reduces union dues from 4.7% to 4%. In 2003, Local No.4 pays the per capita dues for members in good standing.

             Local No. 4 uses its General Fund to invest in its union scenic shops, theatres and studios. In 1999, the local helps finance JC Studios. In 2002, a spray booth and dust collection system is financed by the local and is installed in Steigelbauer’s scenic shop.

            In 2002, the local invests money in real estate with Showman Fabricators Inc so they can remain in our jurisdiction.

            Over the ensuing years, Local No. 4 battles to organize non-union venues.

bam_sharp_building.jpg

The Brooklyn Academy of Music remains a constant source of employment. Brooklyn becomes the place to live once again. This is especially true around BAM. Plans are made to expand BAM and to make the entire area a cultural center. All throughout the borough, neighborhoods flourish. There are plans to build in Brooklyn a MSG type Arena for the NJ Nets. In 2004, Steiner Studios opens in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In 2005, The Martin Luther King and Seaside concerts, non-union for over 20 years, are organized. In 2006, a new concert venue is organized at McCarron Park in Greenpoint. Fulton Ferry Park in down town Brooklyn becomes active and several productions are organized. Music Videos are organized at Steiner Studios.

            The demographics for the soap operas continue to go down. Some are canceled .New ways of producing soap operas reduce the crews. “As the World Turns” remains at JC Studios. Over the years, the crew is reduced, but the show goes on.

            In early 2008, Business Agent, Pete Fitzpatrick, announces he will not run for reelection in May of 08.


 

            I have been a member of Local No. 4 for thirty years, and have been an officer for over twenty five years. I became Business Agent in 1995. I believe that I have served the members well and have always given my best. I thank all the members for their help over the years, and for making my job easier because of their great work.”(Pete Fitzpatrick Local4 NEWS, 4th quarter, 2007)


 

            Lewis Resnick becomes Business Agent of Local No. 4 in May, 2008.

 

            On September 26th, 2008, John J. Coleman Jr. passes way.

 

            To John and all our members who have passed away we say in memoriam:


 

            From a life of joy and gaiety

            To the scene of peace and rest,

            An act of God has taken you

            To the set of everlasting rest.


 

            Oft do we think of days gone by

            When we still toiled together.

            A shadow o’er our stage is cast

            Our Sisters and Brothers gone forever.


 




Page Last Updated: Apr 15, 2011 (06:49:00)
 

 

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