Riviera stagehands protest firing

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Stagehands and supporters held a protest outside the offices of Jam Productions on Wednesday morning. | Patrick Judge/For the Sun-Times

Stagehands who worked at the Riviera Theatre say they were fired in September for their attempts to unionize.

Fired workers and union organizers — joined by local religious leaders, union officials, and former Gov. Pat Quinn — gathered Wednesday outside the office of Jam Productions, 207 W. Goethe St. Jam is a 40-year-old concert promoter that operates the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave.

“It’s very important that Jam … come to their senses,” Quinn said. “The right to organize is fundamental in our American democracy.”

Jolly Roger, a veteran production manager who worked with Jam for nearly 40 years, was among the fired crew members present.

“We were in a truck, taking back supplies from an AC/DC show at Wrigley Field. I got a call. They said, ‘We’ve decided to take a new direction.’”

“There are people that have kids, they need health insurance,” Roger said.

A release issued two weeks ago by the Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local 2 described how over 30 employees were suddenly fired in a “profanity-laced tirade” by Jam’s co-owner Jerry Mickelson.

The employees had signed cards to authorize a vote to unionize, in accordance with National Labor Relations Board procedure.

Days after the workers were fired by Jam, the local stagehands union filed charges of unfair labor practice with the labor board, according to attorney David Huffman-Gottschling. Sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act protect employees’ right to “form, join, or assist labor organizations.”

Mickelson declined comment while the matter is pending before the board – except to ask that the public “provide us the courtesy to never judge someone by the opinion of another,” and also that the company “works with union and non-union stagehands and respects the rights of every person to be represented in any manner they choose.”

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