Most of the union stagehands who worked at the Rolling Stones concert July 11 have gotten new paychecks to replace the ones that bounced in late July.
However, a few of the 204 stagehands, in the words of the Stones themselves, can’t get no satisfaction.
Among those for whom new paychecks still haven’t arrived is the Rev. Kirk A. Laubenstein, who was among the first to speak out when his check from a payroll management company bounced in late July.
Gary Syracuse, business agent for Local 10 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), said, “I can say 99 percent” of the workers have received new checks from Big Whitey Productions, a Long Island company that was hired by promoter AEG Live to handle stagehand labor and payroll services for the Rolling Stones show. The firm is named after its owner, Dennis White, who reportedly had some of his bank accounts frozen as part of a legal issue.
Some of the 100 or so union stagehands whose checks bounced after they deposited them in late July are wary.
“When I got the call to work the One Direction show, because it was also at Ralph Wilson Stadium, my first question was, ‘Who is doing the payroll?’ ” said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo, who has been a union stagehand since 1999, working as a rigger. “I wasn’t going to work for a company that did that the last time; that put a bad taste in my mouth. I certainly don’t blame the union, but it’s not a situation you would expect to happen in any job.”
Laubenstein, who said he is owed $250 for his work on the show, said, “For me, it has been frustrating to say that least. I still have not been paid, and we are now going on nearly two months.”
Laubenstein, who did move to a different house a few weeks after working the show, said, “Moving certainly may have complicated things,” but added, “My mail seems to be getting forwarded OK though.”
But even those who have gotten paid still have to provide documentation of the bank fees they were charged in order to get those reimbursed.
Both Laubenstein and Booth said the reports they got from their banks that they were being fined for depositing a check that bounced did not list the amount of the fees. For them and other workers, getting documentation of the amount they were fined will require a trip to a bank.
For Laubenstein, Buffalo pastor and executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice of Buffalo, getting that documentation took Laubenstein about 45 minutes.
“We will not be paid for any of the hassle,” he said, “Which is frustrating to say the least, so truthfully they owe us much more than just the fee back — they owe us for the time we spent running around” to get the documentation.
Given the amount of time it took Laubenstein to get the needed fee document, Booth said he might just not bother. “It’s almost more of a hassle than is worth it,” he said. “My bank statement says that I was charged $15, but I’m not sure that is going to be enough documentation.”
Documenting and then getting reimbursement for all the bank fees stagehands is also creating extra work for the union office.
Now that most members have been paid for their work, Syracuse said, “I guess I will say I’m happy enough, but all in all it was not a good experience. The show itself was a good experience, and it put a lot of our guys to work, so I was happy about that. But this was an unfortunate situation that hasn’t happened in my 27 years doing this.”
It’s unlikely that the union will deal with Big Whitey again, Syracuse said. For events at First Niagara Center, payroll is handled by the venue, and Live Nation, the promoter that presented One Direction and books concerts at Darien Lake, doesn’t use a middleman either. The Rolling Stones concert, said Booth, “was a strange situation.”
“I just want to be paid and to move on,” said Laubenstein.