Magic Castle Stage Hands Join Local 40

By Robert Fulton

It’s not an illusion. Stage managers working at the Magic Castle have organized to join IBEW Local 40.

This is the first new shop organized by Local 40 in recent memory. The Magic Castle stage managers do a little of everything in running the venue’s two stages, from lighting and sound to troubleshooting problems and managing egos.

The Magic Castle’s stable of stage managers is small, with just five on the team. They face the same management challenges as most workers, but two issues motivated the unit there to organize: better pay and consistent work schedules.

“We got to a point where we’re basically like, you guys aren’t listening to us,” said Mike Hall, one of the stage managers who played a crucial role in organizing the group. “We’ve got to get somebody to help us make you listen to us.”

Things came to a head for Hall last summer. Upon returning from a vacation to celebrate his birthday in August, he found out management had extended his shift by two hours just one day before he was to return to work.

Hall also said the team seeks better pay to compensate for their skillset. He said that the performers recently got a pay bump – which he is happy for – but a note from Magic Castle management saying that what they pay their stage managers was the industry average irked Hall and his colleagues.

“Not only are you telling us that we’re not worth the higher end, you’re telling us that you’re okay with average work,” said Hall, who has worked at the Magic Castle for a little more than five years.

The five stage managers met with Magic Castle management to iron out some things, but they quickly realized their bosses were just going through the motions.

Hall and his team initially approached the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), which recommended that the stage managers would have more appropriate representation through IBEW Local 40 because of the union’s studio work. Local 40 organizer Juan Rodriguez spoke with the stage managers, who ultimately voted unanimously to join the union.

Speaking with Rodriguez helped the group understand that their issues were justified.

“We got a clear idea,” Hall said. “Everything we’re talking about, it’s not crazy. This was stuff that we should have had taken care of a while back.”

When Magic Castle management caught wind of the organizing efforts, they tried to dissuade the stage managers from organizing by hiring a union buster to talk to them.

It didn’t work.

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