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Steelers

Bon Jovi show is on despite strike threat

| Friday, July 21, 2006

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi's Steelers World Championship Celebration concert on Sunday could be "Livin' on a Prayer," if unionized stagehands vote to strike.

Local 3 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has scheduled a strike authorization vote for its roughly 200 members Saturday at the union meeting hall. Picket signs are painted and ready to go.

Despite the threat of pickets Sunday around Heinz Field, the 6 p.m. Bon Jovi show is a go, said Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett.

"Concerning plans in case there is a strike by stagehands, I can tell you that the show will definitely go on," Lockett said.

Because the stagehand union works so infrequently with the Steelers, it negotiates a contract annually, Local 3 President Robert Olinger said.

"Since Three Rivers Stadium was here, 30-some years, when these big rock shows came to town, we used a freelance agreement for employers we don't work with regularly," Olinger said. "Last year, when Kenny Chesney came in, we were told (Pittsburgh Steelers Sports Inc.) would only use us for part of the setup."

Among the jobs union members handle are setup of steel girders and piping, lighting, sound and assembling concert stages, Olinger said. The work is done under the supervision of companies providing the equipment.

Two weeks ago, negotiators reached a tentative contract that union members defeated "very badly," Olinger said.

"There only were three 'yes votes' for the contract. We are very far apart on wages and (work) conditions."

Over the years, wages have increased in freelance agreements, similar to wage increases in contracts with groups such as the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for Benedum Center and the Bynum Theater.

Contract conditions, including overtime provisions, have changed little, he said.

"Two changes the Steelers want are regular time for the first eight hours on Sunday, and a 25 percent pay cut for stagehands that don't have 1,500 hours of experience," Olinger said.

Lockett said the Steelers' organization has handled concerts before and will continue to do so if the event fits its criteria.

The Steelers helped to promote last year's Kenny Chesney concert -- and the 'N Sync concert five years ago that opened Heinz Field, although the team was not the exclusive promoter.

The Steelers are among 11 National Football League teams that formed the Gridiron Stadium Network to lobby the entertainment industry for non-football events at their facilities. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league does not participate in the Gridiron Stadium Network.

"However, we started about three years ago that the team that wins the Super Bowl opens the following season, and that game will include music and entertainment, national talent that is a league initiative," McCarthy said.

The league also handles Super Bowl entertainment.

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