Kimmel Center workers on strike

UPDATE, 6 a.m. Saturday: Kimmel Center workers are on strike, according to Kimmel leaders. The Kimmel, Academy of Music and Merriam Theater are shut down. Talks between the Kimmel and union representing stagehands, ushers, box office and wardrobe workers are expected to continue Saturday afternoon.



With a possible shutdown of the Kimmel Center on the near horizon, Kimmel and union leaders continued talks Friday. The contract for stagehands, ushers, wardrobe workers and box office staff expires Saturday at 12:01 a.m., with union members threatening to strike at that time.

“Let me put it this way – there is still a lot of work to do,” said one observer of talks when asked whether discussions were showing signs of compromise.

The Kimmel has called off Audra McDonald’s Saturday night concert in Verizon Hall, Kimmel president/CEO Anne Ewers said. The singer has agreed to reschedule her date for Nov. 30.

The Opera Company of Philadelphia’s opening of Carmen was still on for the Academy of Music Friday night, but Sunday’s matinee depended on the Kimmel and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reaching a deal.

If the opera’s entire run of Carmen were canceled, “it would be a substantial blow to this company,” resulting in a loss of just under $2 million on the troupe’s $10 million annual budget, said general director David Devan. “Carmen is our Nutcracker of the season.”

Ewers declined to speak about specifics of the four separate union contracts, but she pointed out that Kimmel management had taken $1.5 million in salary reductions recently, and that “one has to look at the Philadelphia Orchestra Association in bankruptcy and realize that [a new contract] must be a bigger piece of the puzzle.”

The orchestra owes the Kimmel $1.4 million in back rent, according to Ewers, creating a $450,000 deficit for the Kimmel Center in fiscal year 2011.

She said: “We’re not asking anyone to make sacrifices that we have not already made ourselves.”