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Ask Chicagoist: Royal George Picketers?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Apr 4, 2006 3:23PM

Dear Chicagoist,

I'm pretty sure that I saw a bunch of picketers outside the Royal George Theatre as I rode the el past Halsted on Tuesday evening. What's going on at the the Royal George that might get people riled up?


2006_04_askgeorge.jpgMaybe they were actors protesting a bad review? Or bored theatergoers demanding their money back? Or maybe they were just acting like there was a protest going on! You know, like part of a performance?

Nope. Oddly enough, all of those guesses are way off base. The real answer is that the Chicago Federation of Musicians, working with the Chicago Federation of Labor, is picketing the Royal George for not using union musicians in their recent Rat Pack tribute production, The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean. The show employs 12 musicians for the orchestra, but none of them are union, even though the theater itself has a history of working with the union on shows. The producers, Dick Feeney and Sandy Hackett, think the union should fly to the moon, and have said they aren't interested in negotiating. They were quoted as saying: "They can't give me any better musicians that I already have. This is a non-union show. End of conversation." What kind of fools does the union think the producers are? The production, they've said, is of fairly small scale and they can't afford the prices Ol' Blue Eyes could have back in the day.

Well, ain't that a kick in the head for the union members? The Sun-Times reports that CFM president Gary G. Matts said that the union only wanted slightly more than what the non-union musicians are being paid, "about $15 per musician per performance," in order to put money in a pension. The musicians, after all, have a lot of living to do. He also was quoted as saying that one of his main concerns is that union musicians at least have the added security of having "a two-week notice when the job is going to close," whereas non-union musicians could have the gig taken away from them at any time and they'd end up somewhere beyond the sea.

Tuesday, March 28, the evening you saw the picket line from the train, was press night for the performance. Therefore, that was the day the union picked for its biggest demonstrations. Something's gotta give, so they plan on continuing the effort for as long as it takes, in the hopes of getting under the skin of the producers. So if you want to catch the show, expect to see strangers in the night picketing outside for an hour before the performance.

The show and the picketing continue at least through the end of May at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted.

Wondering why the lady is a tramp? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.