Broadway cleaners consider strike action

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Broadway service employees are considering strike action that would affect the majority of the theatres in New York's theatre district.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents staff in 32 of the 40 Broadway theatres, has asked its members to vote on whether to authorise strike action in the new year.

The 250 men and women who work as porters, cleaners, bathroom attendants and other of the less glamous jobs in the theatre industry will vote on whether their negotiating committee should call a strike if contract negotiations between SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents the union's workers on Broadway, and The Broadway League do not yield a satisfactory new agreement between the two organisations. At issue are questions of higher wages, improved healthcare and other benefits.

In a statement, Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, expressed optimism that any sort of industrial action could be avoided. She said: "We have had several days of productive negotiations and have several more scheduled. The Broadway League, and the members we represent, look forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ."

The current SEIU contract expires on December 30. A strike, if it happens, would only impact those theatres which currently have agreements with SEIU Local 32BJ.

In a show of solidarity, the union held a rally in the theatre district on December 12 outside the office of The Broadway League, with members of the New York City Council and representatives of the Broadway Coalition of Unions and Guilds in attendance.