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The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that unionized stagehands are within their rights to picket and boycott Darien Lake Theme Park in their dispute with the operator of the park's concert stage.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 10 is battling Metropolitan Entertainment Group, a concert promoter, over wages and work rules.

The stagehands say Metropolitan locked them out last month after proposing a 30 percent pay cut. Local 10 represented 20 of the 60 people who set up concerts at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in 1996.

Metropolitan filed unfair labor practice charges against the stagehands, calling the action illegal. The union never represented a majority of stagehands and lacks a formal union contract, Metropolitan said.

But the union can picket and boycott legally because it isn't merely trying to wrest jobs away from workers currently employed, said Sandra Dunbar, regional director of the NLRB. The stagehands' work at the concert in previous years, and the offer of jobs at the park this year, weighed in their favor, she said.

"The union's not making a claim they're entitled to do this because they represent a majority of employees," Ms. Dunbar said. She ruled for the stagehands last week.

"We're planning to appeal it (the ruling,) and that's where it stands," said Keith Beccia, a vice president of the Montclair, N.J.-based concert promoter.

The cancellation of some large union picnics is increasing pressure on Darien Lake, which leases the concert stage to Metropolitan. The Operating Engineers Local 17 has called off an event, and Rochester's AFL-CIO has asked member unions not to hold next year's annual picnics at Darien Lake, said Joseph Abad, business manager of Local 10. The Buffalo Council AFL-CIO already has called for a 1998 boycott.

Darien Lake's parent, Premier Parks, is stepping in to try to resolve the labor dispute. On Wednesday, Premier chief Kieran Burke is to meet with Metropolitan president John Scher and stagehands' representatives in New York.

"We had a good working relationship with Local 10 when we ran the facility in '94 and '95," said Bradley Paul, general manager of Darien Lake. "We'd like to see them come to an agreement."

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