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Union Labor

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by stantonsound, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    I want to vent for a minute. I just designed a lighting rig for a trade show booth in an un-named city, built it, and shipped it. It was installed by union labor.....riggers and electricians. It was 3 sticks of truss with a total of 15 fixtures. The fixtures were pre-hung and cabled, so all the union guys had to do (you MUST use union labor, can not do anything your self) was bolt the three pieces together, plug in the three soca cables into the dimmer, and fly the pieces (a straight 30' long stick).

    They charged $5,800 to do this....and I supplied all of the equipment including chain hoists, span sets, dimmers, everything. They charged another $950 for power, which was less than 10' from the booth and we used my feeder cable to power the dimmers. To make it worse, the truss was not level and was 10' off from where it was supposed to be hung.

    Then, after the second day, a lamp blew in one of the Source Four's. I had extra lamps, so the electrician came by with a ladder (the truss was 16' up). I used his ladder and replaced the lamp. Guess how much they charge.....$1800.


    Then, they never showed up for the load out. I asked, and found out that they charged 75% of the load in cost for the load out, so they were already paid. I had to do it myself and paid them more than $3000 to load it out myself.


    I spoke with the union representatives and the show staff, and they said that there is nothing that we can do.....and they actually said that I should be happy to have them do the work for me.


    The rig for this show cost about $9800 to buy new and cost more to have it put up for a three day show.

    Anyone else have to deal with this?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Did you talk to the steward? Was there one? Also, was it your company that was eating the cost, or was it the client who footed the bill? I have seen some high rates, especially when it involves rigging high steel, but never that high. What was there hourly rate? I have seen union guys put in a 6 hour minimum when all they have to do is change a lamp, but that just doesn't sound right for a trade show situation.
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Were they IATSE or was this a GES deal. I have had Terrible dealings with GES < gobal Event Services>. If you got this kind of service from IA guys I would be very surprised, and I would for sure write a letter to their loacl bussiness rep, the organizer of the event, and the National committee. That type of behaviour is unaceptable, and exactly how some unions got a bad rep in the 50-60's.

    Q. How many Union Electricians does it take to change a light bulb?

    A. 8, you got a problem with that ?
     
  4. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    This sounds like one of those captive audience monopoly situations.
     
  5. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    All of the guys that I worked with were IATSE. They were great guys and the riggers were very good. I have a problem with an electrician that is union carded but has never used a rosco gobo rotator before.....and has not worked with socapex cable before....but I'll leave that alone for now. He was a really nice guy. We actually went out for beer later and I bought, as I thought that I was getting a good deal.

    I was a contracted supplier for lighting, and I worked for a trade show booth exhibit company. They had to eat half of the labor bill ($64,000 all together for the four booths that we worked) and the customers split the other half.

    We provided lighting for four booths and the situation that I described was the worst, but the other three were bad as well. For instance, I was told that I would need a 60amp power drop to run 15 LED fixtures, each of which had an amp draw of less than .75 amps. The manufacturer states that I can plug 24 into the same 20amp circuit.

    It was one of the most miserable experiences. I spoke to the steward and was told that this is just how things work and not to worry about it, because the big companies have money and they would pay it.

    Oh....and GES....they charged $600 to vacuum a 10' by 30' booth and $250 a day for a trash can rental....and then $50 to empty it every day.

    This really gives true professionals a bad rap.
     
  6. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    Don't get me wrong....I am not against union labor or the IATSE. If I were in a position where I could join, I would. I live in a right to work state and most of the venues that I work in would not be allowed by the union. In fact, most venues try to avoid it at all costs. I also run a business and union labor is not always available and I have to hire outside, so this would not go over well. I still pay my guys at least $30 an hour and I follow good employment practices, but in the smaller towns the labor is just not available. I have worked along side union guys and have spent many long nights telling stories and having an adult beverage or two.

    The problem is with the management. These guys that were working were getting $28 an hour for electrics and $42 for high steel rigging. I actually pay better than this. The problem is the out of control costs of the billing companies.
     
  7. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I so fully agree with you. I understand your psosition too, and, in my opinion, you are fully justified for having a rant.
    I can't decide which is my favorite GES story the time two of their guys dragged a cart through the back hallways of the Portland convention center, putting big blue marks on the wall, ripping off two corner protectors, then blaming it on the company I worked for at the time. I had to go in and show the manager of the facility one of the carts they use for material handling and compare it to the height of the scratches, and the color of paint. Or the time I sent 12 PAL1500's to a show in Las Vgas and I got two back that had had a forklift fork shoved through the case longways, destroying the mirror motor, and half of the main body of the fixture. They told us it must have happened "in-transit" 'course they were completely in charge of all loading an unloading.
     
  8. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    I'm either feeling really under-paid, or that there is lots of room for growth in my pay scale range... I do however take some pride in having earned the extent of what I make even if not as much it would seem to scale often made by those more qualified than I.

    Don't get me started about unions... On the other hand, person to person, they are often great by way of having the same love of theater or tech that's universal. Sometimes there is jerks and sometimes idiots, and other times highly skilled and trained individuals. There is certainly no monopoly in these generalizations union or not. Beyond that... We all have to put bread on the table, some people are hired for their individual talents and skills, others are hired at least in part for their affilliation in having qualified for membership. Membership is often highly selective which ensures a good standard of living is maintained for those that are qualified.


    On my own note, one of our shows lost a small folding lid storage box containing spare lamps last week. Nothing big, about $600.00 worth of lamps and tape. Just didn't get on the truck with the rest of the gear somehow. No worries however, every lamp and the box has the company name and phone number clearly on it in a way that's un-mistakably ours. Someone is going to see this blue box of spares floating about and say, hey, this don't belong to us, let's ring up the company it belongs to. Yep, only been gone a week now... any day now... Somewhere hanging about the stage is a blue box with the spare lamps clearly labeled as to what it is and who it belongs to... Kind of nice storage tub for lamps... really easy to find...


    So far nothing by way of the production manager calling about to the last venu the box was seen at.
     

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