Local Stagehands Organizing at Live Nation’s Aragon Ballroom | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

In addition to fighting Jam, local stagehands also organizing at Live Nation’s Aragon Ballroom

On the same day Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 2 filed a much-publicized complaint against Jam Productions for firing workers organizing at the Riviera Theatre, the union initiated another case against the local concert promoters’ arch competitor Live Nation at Uptown’s neighboring Aragon Ballroom, which the international concert monopoly now controls.

The action against Live Nation was withdrawn five days later, on Sept. 23. “Live Nation agreed to recognize the union, and negotiations are underway,” said the union’s attorney, David Huffman-Gottschling.

Meanwhile, the fight with Jam continues, and not just at the Riv: The union also is seeking to organize stagehands at the Vic Theatre in Lakeview and the Park West in Lincoln Park. Jam owns all three venues and until recently controlled the Aragon, but Live Nation swooped in and secured longtime booking rights there.

The fight with Jam could be a long one: According to Huffman-Gottschling, union elections are on hold pending a decision by the National Labor Relations Board. The regional office must first investigate the complaint and decide if it moves on to a prosecutorial phase overseen by its administrative law judges.

 “It could take a while”—as much as a year, the attorney said. During that time, Riv stagehands will continue to be locked out of their jobs, unless Jam reconsiders. Stagehands at the Vic and Park West still are working.

Riv stagehands continue to hope that Jam co-founder Jerry Mickelson will reconsider the firings and stop fighting the drive to organize. “Jerry’s not a bad guy. It’s just that he freaks out and doesn’t think it through sometimes,” veteran stagehand Chris “Jolly Roger” Shaw told this blog. “For years, there have been associates of mine who’ve said, ‘Yeah, we know he’s an a--hole, but he’s our a--hole.’”

While Jam was not above bullying tactics against its rivals during its first two decades on the Chicago concert scene, it has been viewed by many as the much more benevolent homegrown “mom and pop” of the live music world for the last two decades, when it has been locked in often vicious competition with Live Nation.

Mickelson could not be reached for comment. So far he has declined to say anything other than, “There are two sides to every story.”

Earlier reports on the Jam union fight:

Oct. 21, Jam Productions vs. stagehands

Nov. 6. Jolly Roger talks in-depth about the union fight with Jam

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