$400,000 for Stagehands?

While eating my cereal this morning, I was floored by an article in The New York Times on a strike by stagehands at Carnegie Hall. The stagehands, who do everything from moving pianos to unloading instruments from trucks to configuring the stage for performances, make on average $400,000 a year. From the Times: “Carnegie employs five full-time stagehands, and hires others part time as needed. Its regular stagehands, who work long days and many nights and weekends, earn much of their money in overtime. Carnegie’s 2011 tax return showed that the stagehands were among the organization’s highest-paid employees: they worked an average of 60 hours a week, the return said, and earned between $280,000 and $357,000 — with all getting at least an additional $90,000 in other compensation and benefits. All earned more than Carnegie’s finance director.”

And who said the arts doesn’t pay.

Update: The strike has been settled according to The Wall Street Journal. The strike concerned Carnegie Hall’s new education wing. The union representing the stagehands, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, was seeking to extend its agreement beyond the hall’s performance spaces and into the education areas, according to the article. From the WSJ: “Under the deal, most rules governing performance won’t apply to education spaces. Students in the music rooms will be able to move music stands, chairs and instruments.” Does this imply that musicians can’t move 3-pound music stands or chairs in the performance space?

Unfortunately, the WSJ and the Times did not address the key question of why the stagehands make such high above-market wages. Probably due to the strong union exercising monopoly power, but I defer to labor economists to figure it out.