Pittsburgh stagehands union wants to work at Stage AE

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Members of a local stagehands union have worked major concert venues in Pittsburgh but they haven't been able to crack one of the newest -- publicly subsidized Stage AE on the North Shore. Now they want the chance.

Representatives of Local 3 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees made their pitch to Pittsburgh Stadium Authority board members Thursday, claiming PromoWest Productions, the company that operates Stage AE, has been using out-of-state, non-union employees to do stagehands work.

Robert Brown, Local 3 business agent, asked for the board's support in the effort to win work from PromoWest when an existing arrangement with another contractor expires in 2015.

He argued the local union deserved at least a crack at the contract given that the $12 million Stage AE, owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Continental Real Estate Cos. and the Pittsburgh Steelers, was built with the help of a $2.5 million Pennsylvania grant. He said money paid to employees should be staying here, not going elsewhere.

City Councilman Corey O'Connor, a stadium authority board member, said he plans to investigate the situation. He said he supported the union in its battle.

Mr. Brown said the union met with Scott Stienecker, president of PromoWest, in 2010 around the time Stage AE opened and was told the company already had engaged a contractor.

Mr. Stienecker more recently indicated to the union that he looked forward to speaking to its representatives in 2015 when a new contract will be awarded, according to Mr. Brown.

Mr. Stienecker did not return phone calls Thursday.

Burt Lauten, a spokesman for the Steelers, said after the meeting that the organization doesn't consider the matter a stadium authority issue. "We are not sure why they chose the stadium authority to voice their concerns." He declined further comment.

IATSE represents about 325 stagehands, riggers, carpenters, electricians, sound engineers, hair and make-up artists, and extras in Pittsburgh. It has worked at big venues such as Benedum Center, Heinz Hall, and Consol Energy Center, and also has a contract with the Steelers to handle big concerts at Heinz Field.

Mr. Brown said he believes union wages would be competitive with what non-union workers are making at Stage AE. He said four to 12 stagehands typically work at the venue, depending on how big the show is.

Also Thursday, the authority board approved the sale of 71,092 square feet of land to North Shore Developers L.P. for a proposed three-story office and retail development near Heinz Field.

Continental Real Estate Cos., in conjunction with the Steelers and Pirates, is planning 80,000 square feet of office space and 40,000 square feet of retail at the site next to Stage AE.

It already has lined up Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill and North Park Lounge to anchor the retail. It does not yet have an office tenant.

The developer hopes to begin construction by the end of July and have North Shore I and II, technically two buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge, completed by summer or fall of 2014.


Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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