Members Julian Amrine (from left), Ellie Fog and Jennifer Bacon of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees held pickets outside Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett this fall. (International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees)

Members Julian Amrine (from left), Ellie Fog and Jennifer Bacon of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees held pickets outside Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett this fall. (International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees)

Workers at Angel of the Winds Arena wait years for contract

Stagehands at the Everett events center says the city should step in after negotiations linger.

EVERETT — Angel of the Winds Arena is not an easy place for a rigger to work.

Stagehands at the Everett arena describe balancing on an 8-inch rounded beam as they attach lighting and video equipment in the rafters.

“Even the most experienced riggers don’t enjoy being up on that grid,” said James Conway, an Everett resident who works for multiple staging companies in the Puget Sound area.

But when at Angel of the Winds Arena, Conway said he gets paid less and doesn’t earn health care benefits.

Amid safety concerns, Conway joined an organizing movement among riggers employed by Rhino Staging NW, a subcontractor that frequently supplies riggers and stagehands for shows at the Angel of the Winds Arena and other venues in the region.

Riggers do tasks such as run sound systems, build sets and hang lights.

The union is fighting for higher wages and health care, which they say is an industry standard.

Conway, 56, has been rigging with Rhino for about three years. He called the company, “the sweatshop of the industry.”

“You start working with these other companies and you realize you’re doing the same kind of work (with Rhino) for far less of a price and less benefits and less safety … less everything,” he said.

Riggers are supposed to get breaks every two and a half hours and take eight-hour rests between jobs, but the company often asks employees to forgo those measures, Conway said.

Representatives at both Rhino’s Northwest office and company headquarters declined to comment for this story.

When workers first organized, Conway said Rhino brass quickly made a trip to meet with all Northwest employees. The CEO’s message was unions are bad for workers, and sounded more like propaganda, he said.

A lot of Conway’s colleagues were persuaded against organizing, and publicly talking about the union seemed prohibited, he said.

Fours years after a majority of the 71 Rhino northwest workers voted to unionize and joined the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 15, members are still negotiating a first contract with the company.

“We have been very patient,” said Jennifer Bacon, union president. “In our opinion Rhino has not been bargaining in good faith.”

The union said the Everett Public Facilities District, which owns Angel of the Winds Arena, and the city are looking the other way.

Bacon said the facilities district has failed to create a standard and make hiring union labor a requirement. The union, which represents about 370 workers in the Seattle-Everett area, feels the facilities district could leverage its position to force Rhino to the negotiating table.

Members of the public facilities district board are appointed by the Everett mayor and city council. The facilities district outsources management of the arena to Spectra, a venue management company.

The board is independent and makes its own decisions, according to Kimberley Cline, a spokesperson for the city.

Recent picketing outside the area took the board by surprise, Facilities District President Gary Weikel said.

Weikel, a former deputy Snohomish County executive, was unaware an organizing campaign was occurring among Rhino workers.

“We have taken the position that this is not a labor dispute with us,” Weikel said. “This is a labor dispute between that union and Rhino.”

It’s not up to the board to choose sides, he added.

Weikel said the board has brought up safety concerns with Rhino and has asked for the company’s safety record, though they have yet to receive it.

“I imagine if there were many safety violations it would be reported to the state,” Weikel said.

This fall, union members have picketed several times outside the arena. They plan to continue this at shows later this month.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @lizzgior.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Traffic’s creeping back and some transit to collect fares again

Community Transit and Sound Transit are set to resume fares June 1, but not Everett Transit.

Neil Hubbard plays the bagpipes in front of a memorial at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood Monday morning. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Memorial Day tradition continues in Lynnwood amid pandemic

Loved ones placed flags at Floral Hills cemetery as bagpipes played in the distance Monday morning.

COVID-19 and domestic violence

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Counting COVID deaths isn’t as simple as you might think

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Stillaguamish Tribe gives $1M to food banks, fire services

“I had to do a double take,” said the director of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank, which received $300,000.

Island County gets go-ahead for Phase 2 of reopening economy

People can gather in groups five or fewer. Some businesses can open, if they follow guidelines.

The town the virus seemed to miss: No cases counted in Index

Some in the town of 175 fear outsiders could bring in the virus. Others just want things to get back to normal.

Worst jobless rate in the state: Snohomish County at 20.2%

In April, 91,383 were unemployed in the county. The aerospace sector was hit especially hard.

Boeing worker accused of murder after Everett party shooting

Police say the suspect, 35, made sexual advances and opened fire when he was turned down.

Most Read