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Englert Theatre stagehands and technicians with IATSE Local 690 are seeking a contract with the performance center to earn better wages and working conditions. Although declining to detail the specifics of ongoing negotiations, IATSE Local 690 president Greg Wicklund said the workers are looking for a living wage, scheduled breaks, overtime pay and "consistency in their workplace." "This industry is our career and union members take the work that we do very seriously," he said in an email to the CBJ. The employees voted unanimously to unionize in November by a vote of 13-0 out of a total of 20 eligible voters. The agreement was certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But despite the union forming, and employees hoping an agreement would be in place in time for the Mission Creek Festival starting April 6, the two sides have not come to an agreement yet. "We were, of course, optimistic that the negotiation process would proceed quickly," said Mr. Wicklund. "But with the holidays and various scheduling conflicts, it is sometimes difficult to find the time to bring a number of people together to the bargaining table." When asked when the two parties may come to an agreement, Executive Director John Schickedanz said it could happen "soon." "No one involved wants this to drag out in perpetuity," he said to the CBJ. "Our board and administration are committed to continued forward movement and there haven't been any delays in the process from The Englert's side of things. We want to get something in place so we can shift our focus to building meaningful programs that bring diverse artistry to our stage and the community. "When you think about union negotiations, it's easy to believe that both parties are at each other's throats fighting over details on which they'll never find the middle ground," he added. "That has not been my experience in the contract that we're working through with IATSE. I believe that both parties want to see a fair agreement that is beneficial to the employees while ensuring that The Englert can remain a cultural icon in Iowa for another 100 years." Stagehands and technicians include carpenters, riggers, lighting and audio technicians, fly rail operators, truck loaders and more. Office clerical employees and guards are not included as union members. One vocal and unionized worker is Justin Comer, an Englert Theatre production technician who said in one self-posted Twitter video he works two other jobs. https://twitter.com/justinkcomer/status/1642953682047098880?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1642953682047098880%7Ctwgr%5Ea523334db1b126b931abecc7859583b7bbccc34d%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fiowastartingline.com%2F2023%2F04%2F04%2Fworkers-behind-iowa-citys-mission-creek-festival-want-union-contract%2F "There are a lot of odd hours and physical demands working in this industry, and organizing together for fair compensation is really important," he explained to the CBJ. "You could say the same about most service work too." It's not uncommon for some workers in the theater industry to devote 12-16 hour days to make sure shows occur as they should, often interfering with evenings, weekends and holidays, said Mr. Wicklund. Mr. Comer added the workers are also looking for hourly minimums for work calls. Taking over as executive director in August 2021, Mr. Schickedanz said his team has made employee experience a priority, but that organizations like theirs have "long struggled to balance internal and external forces to take care of their staff while sustaining the organization," particularly after the pandemic. "I'm proud of the work that we've done to improve work-life balance, increase pay and ensure the staff members have a safe place to work." "Basically, we're looking to bring our workplace up to industry standards that IATSE has established across the country," said Mr. Comer. IATSE Local 690, or International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, is based out of Iowa City.