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Theater Cleaners, Porters, Matrons Threaten To Strike

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They're not actors, musicians or stagehands, but a strike by some workers could soon shut down the shows at 32 Broadway theatres who are threatening to walk out if they don't have a new contract by the end of the month. NY1's Frank DiLella filed the following report.

It was all "ays" and no "nays" on Wednesday as theater cleaners, porters and matrons authorized a strike against theater owners if they don't have what they consider a satisfactory contract by the end of the month.

Leaders of their union Local 32BJ, held a rally in Midtown to express their disappointment over negotiations with The Broadway League, the organization that represents the owners. The issues are the same as with so many contract disputes these days: wages and healthcare.

"The sticking point is, basically, getting healthcare for the workers when they aren't working," said Shirley Aldebol, the vice president of Local 32BJ. "Currently, the way the system works is that when a show closes down and the lights go out on Broadway, those workers are laid off, but when they come back, they don't get healthcare for six to 10 weeks after the show opens."

Theater cleaner Jessica Vargas currently works at Broadway's Lunt Fontanne Theatre. She's on the bargaining committee for her union.

"If we go on strike, Broadway goes on strike, the city goes on strike," Vargas said. "So it's important to get what we need, because we need health care."

In response to Wednesday's rally, The Broadway League released the following more hopeful statement:

"We have had several days of productive negotiations and have several more scheduled," the statement reads. "The Broadway League, and the members we represent, look forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with SEIU Local 32BJ."

Union leaders said that they will return to the bargaining table on Friday, with the hope of seeing a new contract from theater owners before December 30.

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