Denny’s Daily Zinger: Carnegie Hall Stagehands Make $400,000 a Year

Carnegie Hall.

One of the toughest challenges many CEOs face is dealing with unions. If workers go on strike, a company’s finances are suddenly in shambles.
Last month, we attended a concert at Carnegie Hall.

What triggered this column was a story about the five people who move music stands and shove pianos at New York’s Carnegie Hall—members of the Stagehands Union—make $400,000.00 a year. They are squarely in the “1 percent.” Astonishingly, this is the same work for which Congress refuses to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Fast-Forward 60 Years.
Here in Philly, union members are thugs.

Union bad actors are destroying Philadelphia’s convention business.

A Sea Change
Last month, the workers at the Chattanooga VW plant rejected overtures by the UAW.

The vote was huge news and caused panic in the 11.3 percent of the American workforce that is unionized (down from 20.1 percent 30 years ago).

The last great union brouhaha occurred on Aug. 2, 1981, when Ronald Reagan—just seven months on the job and considered by many to be weak Mr. Nice-Guy—fired nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers for threatening to strike. This was a national security issue. The Cold War was hot and the air traffic controllers were responsible for the safety of military aviation.

Takeaways to Consider

  • When I was growing up in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, unions were strong and necessary.
  • Are they as needed today with the disparity of the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent?
  • “Nothing succeeds like excess.” —Oscar Wilde

Denny Hatch is a copywriter, designer and direct marketing consultant. Click on the title below to read the first three chapters of his most recent bookWrite Everything Right!” No cost. Contact him at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • JerryS


    First of all, I’ll qualify this by saying I have never belonged to a union. So my experience is somewhat limited.

    Unions started out because companies took advantage of their workers – long hours, low pay, terrible working conditions. Some of that has changed now, due to laws protecting workers and working conditions. However, the laws can only go so far and can’t cover every possible work situation. I do think there is a place for unions in our economy today. Without them (or the threat of them), some companies could try to take more advantage of their workers. Unions (and the threat of unionization) has a balancing effect in some cases.

    However, with that said, there are two problems here. First of all, all union employees in the same job get the same pay – no matter how good (or poor) of a job they do. There is little incentive to go beyond the minimum requirements of the job, and much incentive to do as little as you possibly can (which means more union workers will be required). Add to that some unions, due to the threat of strike you mentioned, have become too strong. They think they can manage the company better than company managers do, and can create whatever work rules they want. Both of these are counterproductive in today’s economy.

    There are stories all around of unions overstepping their bounds. The latest big one was the Baker’s union driving Hostess Foods out of business (fortunately, my Twinkies are back!).

    Unions should protect their workers from overzealous employers. But they also need to understand that they do not control the company, and that unreasonable demands are not advantageous to anyone in the long run,.

  • GeorgeM

    People organize in groups to get an advantage. We are a very tribal species.