Mar 10, 2023 - News

State lawmakers intercede in film festival labor dispute

Playhouse Square signage on a cloudy day

The Playhouse Square sign on an overcast Cleveland afternoon. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

For the second straight year, the Cleveland International Film Festival and Playhouse Square intend to use non-union video projectionists for the annual film fest this month, despite a labor agreement between the theater and the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 160 (IATSE).

The big picture: The work covered by the five-year agreement, which expires at the end of June, includes "installation, operation and maintenance functions necessary to project, produce and/or reproduce moving images when those images are the principal attraction by any means in the theater such as film screening."

Flashback: The situation is almost identical to that of last year.

  • CIFF and Playhouse Square initially planned to use non-union projectionists, but former Playhouse Square president Gina Vernaci negotiated a deal with the union after pressure from local labor organizations and political leaders.

Driving the news: Twelve Cleveland-area statehouse legislators sent a letter Friday to CIFF executive director Marcie Goodman and Playhouse Square president and CEO Craig Hassall, urging them to negotiate with the union.

What they're saying: "The members of IATSE Local 160 … are masters of their profession, and their expertise is unmatched," read the letter. "These workers are eager to fulfill their essential role for the 2023 film festival, just as they did last year."

The intrigue: Playhouse Square leadership argued last year that the collective bargaining agreement with the union did not apply to events in which theater facilities were rented to third parties like CIFF.

  • Yes, but: John Galinac, president of IATSE Local 160, told Axios the contract is clear. "They can't lock us out," he said.

The other side: "It is unfortunate that this particular issue misrepresents the quality of our working relationships with the unions," Playhouse Square said in a statement to Axios.

  • "Playhouse Square is in compliance with its agreement with IATSE Local 160 and no grievance has been filed. We would be happy to participate in the grievance process, the appropriate path for resolving such disagreements."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Playhouse Square.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Cleveland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Cleveland stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Cleveland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more