Workers Behind Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival Want Union Contract

Justin Comer, a production technician at Englert Theatre in Iowa City, talks about production workers' unionization efforts in a video posted April 3, 2023.

By Amie Rivers

April 4, 2023

Twenty behind-the-scenes workers that keep productions at a historic Iowa City theater running smoothly—including this weekend’s Mission Creek Festival—are asking for the public’s help to put pressure on their employer for their first union contract.

Englert Theatre production crew members unanimously voted, 13-0, to unionize on Nov. 7 of last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The vote affected all 20 crew members.

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Yet, despite being unionized for nearly five months, workers still don’t have their first contract with their employer.

“We were kind of hoping to have a contract in place before the Mission Creek Festival this weekend,” said Justin Comer, an Englert production technician and organizer. “That’s not happening, but these things take time.”

Greg Wicklund, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 690, has been representing the employees as they go through unionization. He said scheduling conflicts have stalled negotiations.

“Local 690 is very eager to see a resolution to the contract negotiations, and we’ll be happy when an agreement gets reached,” Wicklund said. “We think it’s unfortunate that employees who voted unanimously for a union are facing unfair wages and inequitable working conditions, and we’re working to change that.”

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Alex Body, an organizer with IATSE Local 690, said production workers have “sporadic and odd-hour work,” something he’s also done working full-time at other auditoriums and arenas in the area.

“We’re trying to just get it done—get a contract that the people who work there can work under fairly, and something that’s sustainable for the Englert, too,” he said. “We’re not trying to ask for more than they can provide.”

Comer said workers are now spreading the word that they’d “like the administration and the board of the Englert Theatre to continue negotiating with the union in good faith, working toward a fair and equitable contract for us.”

“If you are a member of the Iowa City community, if you’re excited to come to Mission Creek this weekend, if you enjoy the Englert Theater in general and the productions we put on there—if you could express your support for us in our unionization effort, we would all appreciate it,” Comer added.


by Amie Rivers

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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