Kravis Center Breaks Law, Screws Workers, Stiffs Patrons [Updated]

Categories: Broward News

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Pretty goddamned embarrassing when Palm Beach County's premier performing arts showcase chooses to break the law with impunity rather than do right by its employees. 

But for 12 years now Palm Beach's Kravis Center has engaged in an illegal campaign of union busting that's simmered like a boil on the county's public face. They've been repeatedly cited for unfair labor practices by the National Labor Relations Board and found to have robbed workers of millions in back pay.

Now the boil has burst, oozing picket lines and protests that have drawn national attention, staining the reputations of the county, the center, and high-profile Kravis supporters like Tiffany's, whose Palm Beach store has been the scene of sympathy protests

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It could have been a good night at the Kravis Wednesday. The winter season was on and Palm Beach was flush with pre-holiday snowbirds. It was supposed to be opening night for a production of "Jersey Boys," the musical based on the rise to glory of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: Sure-fire stuff for the main body of Kravis regulars, an audience with an insatiable appetite for such fare. 

But the house lights were dim. The action was out back by the theater's stage door, where a baker's dozen of stagehands from IATSE Local 500 were gathered under the streetlights. The AFL-CIO had put the Kravis on its boycott list, the local was picketing, and crews delivering equipment for the show had refused to cross the line.

"We're fed up with their bullshit," the local's business rep, Terry McKenzie, told me. "The Kravis Center is the single worst, multiple labor law offender in the U.S." 

Tall and reedy, with close-cropped fair hair and intense, weary features, McKenzie gestured at the men and women on the picket line. "These are not casual people," he said, indignantly. "These are highly qualified techs, and the Kravis refuses to recognize their skill level."

I spent most of my visit chatting with union member Terry Ponder, 61, a rangy, easygoing West Palm resident with a touch of South Carolina, his birthplace, in his voice. 

He's "a rigger," Ponder explained, and when he works he climbs around in the walls and ceilings of the Kravis and other auditoriums, rigging the lighting and sound equipment for shows. He's got a taste for heights, having worked as an ironworker "at 505 feet"--a lifetime ago at the Otis Elevator Company's testing facility in Connecticut.

If not correctly done, Ponder said, lighting and sound equipment can be "a danger to the actors and the audience." What he doesn't mention is that poorly trained workers can also be a danger to themselves, like the lighting tech who fell to his death on a Kravis job a little over two years ago.

When he works, Ponder says, he makes $28 an hour. Pretty fair pay, but the work comes and goes. There's health care benefits too, but that comes through the union. "We just want to get a contract signed and get to work here," he said. "We'll be out on this line as long as it takes."

Will the Kravis board comes to its senses? 

We don't expect much sympathy for organized labor from fat cat board members like Llwyd EcclestoneGeorge Elmore or Abe Gosman.  

But the Kravis has "honorary artistic board" members, like Burt Reynolds, who probably still has an Actor's Equity card, and Jimmy Buffett, who's supposed to be a good ol' boy at heart (Palm Beach mansion notwithstanding). Where are they?

As for ex-officio board members like West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams: Public officials owe it to their constituents to stand up to outlaws. 

Local supporters of the stagehands are planning a show of strength tomorrow at 1 p.m. in front of the Kravis on Okeechobee Boulevard, just west of City Place. The strikers will be out behind the stage door 24/7. They told me they'd welcome the public. 

[UPDATE: At around noon on Friday, the Palm Beach Post reported the two sides came to an agreement. Details were unavailable.]


Fire Ant--an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite--covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact fire.ant@browardpalmbeach.com






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19 comments
frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

i think the point that is being missed here is the litigation in the name
of the center verses the union has the potential to set labor law precedent
and the board members (i am familiar with litigation of two of the three
mentioned inthe article above) all appear to have UNDISCLOSED interest in
the instant case(s) outcome  for their own purposes elsewhere possibly in
other investments and holdings that ultimately they may benefit financially from
the results at the kravis center


or else why press established labor law decisions or try to continue
to litigate their reversal to the bitter end in a not-for-profit enterprise ?

it seems the resources used by the kravis center board against labor at
the center may be just a test case(s) to justify extracting concessions from
labor elsewhere, say in a coal mine in west virginia or a hospital in
california that these same board members may personally have a financial
stake in


it's why gated communities are gated

umfame
umfame

Unions are a cancer. Good riddance.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

There is also a LOT more to the story then the union is saying.  I used to work there every now and then BECAUSE the union kept walking out, running up production costs, and breaking things such as the fly system by dropping weights from height and booby trapping spotlights.

Sorry, but the union is FAR from innocent individuals.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

oh well things didn't go as planned at LA SCALAs opening either.............maybe the arts and culture is just too expensive..........you know in BERLIN one can get the best seats in the house for a mere $20 ?

anyone else see a pattern here ?

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius

@umfame Yeah, like the 40 hour work week.  Child labor laws.

Or when you look at the educational system of non right-to-work-states.  How much better they are.

I agree.  We should put our faith in the Koch boys.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@smdrpepper Has Kravis management ever made such claims? Why didn't they bring it up to the NLRB? Would that justify the Kravis withholding millions in back pay? Nice of you to stab your fellows in the back.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant @smdrpepper I have no idea if they brought it up, but I was there and saw it happen.  I am not a union member and never would join them because of the things they have pulled. 

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

many workers are unionized in GERMANY................ and the well-funded apprenticeship programs offered give rise to careers, not just jobs..for instance german second graders, potential engineers all, are already into the country's plan to eliminate reliance on nuclear power in ten years, turning to solar energy collection, guaranteeing them well paid jobs at some level in an industry of the future and keeping unemployment to near zero for the next fifty years....but that's another story

my point about BERLIN was the german's want their culture available and accessable to ALL, just like their beer,  and detest the disneyfication of junk arts for profit

do you think ANY of our high school kids today could name a poet or composer or author of any CLASSICAL works ? do you think our kids want to attend plays and shows and cultural events as the kids in BERLIN ?

what that means is those responsible for producing that culture are well represented and compensated so that the best of the best are involved in giving BERLINERs are presented with the results

which is why even JFK said "ich been ein berliner" way back in the 60's which was the same year david bowie made his berlin debut - it's no accident they have more culture....they support it

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@smdrpepper @fire.ant The Kravis is a workplace "living hell" but you couldn't wait to work there. Um, who's the fool?

The record on the Kravis is clear: It waged an illegal, 12-year-long campaign of  union-busting; the workers fought back and won--no thanks to you.

Don't let the stage door hit your ass on the way out.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant @smdrpepper The union is responsible for getting fired from the Kravis.  So according to you, every crappy employee must be kept at their job, despite screwing it up or making the workplace a living hell?  You sir, are a fool.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@smdrpepper @fire.ant So the union is responsible for the Kravis Center's illegal acts? Too bad the bosses didn't have you there representing them in court. But you were too busy scabbing.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant @smdrpepper The fact is the union screwed the union, not the other way around.  If they did their jobs well, this would never have come up.  but they throw wrenches into their own works.  I know some of those guys personally and they are not all bad.  However, their management is close to Attila the Hun in style.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@smdrpepper @fire.ant The workers are the union. And the Kravis fucked them over. Them's the facts, Jack. Too bad about your car.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant Plus, I will bet that you never had your tires slashed by these jokers because you dared to go in there to work.  Or your car keyed, or any of number of other things they have pulled.  Ive dealt with stage hand unions in other states and never once have they pulled the things the one here has done.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant @smdrpepper Not blaming the workers, I blame the union.  Normally, I would be right there with you, but in this case they are wrong.

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@smdrpepper @fire.ant Sure. Always the workers' fault. The NLRB and the courts had it all wrong when they cited the Kravis. Why don't you read their reports? Then you can "find out what's really going on."

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@fire.ant @smdrpepper I think you need to actually find out what is really going on before you say someone is getting screwed over by someone else.  Bet you didnt know the union also like to vandalize cars as well.  Thing is, they were getting paid very well, I never was paid that well.  But they kept wanting more and more, yet were unreliable since they would just walk out on a gig in progress.  You want to know why tickets are so expensive?  That would be why.

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