Workers at Denver's Marquis and Summit Music Hall File for Union Vote | Westword

Stage, Production Workers at Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall File to Unionize

Employees at the two Live Nation venues say they are underpaid and overworked.
Summit Music Hall has been a popular music venue in downtown Denver since 2010.
Summit Music Hall has been a popular music venue in downtown Denver since 2010. Lauren Antonoff
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Workers at Summit Music Hall and the Marquis Theater in Denver, two popular venues operated by Live Nation Entertainment, have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.

When concert-goers gush about how good their favorite artist sounded, how amazing the set looked or how incredible the lighting was at a concert, they’re not necessarily thinking about the workers who made it all happen, according to Max Peterson, business representative with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 7, through which Summit and Marquis workers are unionizing

“A lot of people get in this business because they freaking love music,” Peterson says. “They love going to shows. They love being part of and around the live music scene, and what we see oftentimes is that these mega-corporations take advantage of that passion and undercut what would normally be a fair shake for these workers.”

Live Nation is the largest live entertainment company in the United States, and is currently being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations of becoming a monopoly. In 2018, the company took over booking and operations for the Marquis and Summit, where workers say their skills are undervalued and their energy overspent.

“These are highly technical, skilled craftspeople. They are at the top of their game,” Peterson says. “The skill set that this takes is immense, and it takes a lot of years of doing it to get proficient at it.”

Peterson says the industry has been slow to recognize how important stagehands and production crews are, and such is the case in the Denver market.

At the end of May, a majority of the stage crew and production workers at Summit and the Marquis asked Live Nation to voluntarily recognize the union, but Live Nation declined. Now the employees are heading to an NLRB election scheduled for June 24. If half of the 25 to thirty workers vote to unionize, Live Nation will have to bargain with the union on a new contract.

Live Nation did not respond to a request for comment but IATSE says it hopes to move quickly.

“In fairness to Live Nation, thus far and in their history with the union nationally, they have not been an aggressively anti-union organization,” Peterson says. “But you never know. We would rather not give the employer more time to sow confusion and division.”

The Fillmore Auditorium, the other venue Live Nation controls in Denver, is already unionized and represented by IATSE. Peterson says places like Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Chicago also have union representation at Live Nation clubs.

“This is a great microcosm of a story that is becoming more and more true,” he says. “The industry is reevaluating how to make it work for everybody. Because for so long, it did not serve the people that are the backbone of it, which is technicians and stagehands.”

Summit and Marquis Employee Demands

Employees at the Denver venues had been thinking about unionizing for years, according to Peterson, dating back to before the pandemic. Union talks increased when employees saw the disparity between their pay and the amount Live Nation’s CEO makes. In 2023, a report showed that the pay ratio for CEO Michael Rapino to the median employee was 5,414 to one (in 2022, Rapino signed a five-year, $109 million contract). That was the highest ratio among S&P 500 companies that reported the same data.

In the meantime, workers had been asked to do the same amount of work with fewer people.

Every employee between the two venues works at Summit, but Peterson says the Marquis often only has one person doing the work of an entire crew, so not every employee has shifts there. Employees are concerned that overworking due to understaffing will lead to on-the-job injuries, according to IATSE.
click to enlarge outside of a music venue called marquis
The Marquis Theater is also operated by Live Nation.
Scott Lentz
Lack of breaks, including meals during shifts that last over eight hours, and low wages are among the top issues identified by the prospective union. Employees are hoping to negotiate for hourly minimums in their contract to ensure they have an idea of what they’ll be taking home in a day’s work. At the Fillmore, staff has those minimums.

“Many of these technicians can make two to three times in a day elsewhere,” Peterson says. “With the lack of minimum hour guarantees and the low rate, these workers can’t afford to work at this place they love.”

The union also plans to advocate for more consistent raises.

Peterson adds that in the music industry, work is unstable. Workers who want solid health care benefits and regular payments from an employer into retirement accounts need to unionize given the gig nature of the work, he says.

“The ultimate goal is not to just win an election for a union,” Peterson says. “The ultimate goal is to get a first contract and get these folks under a contract that works for them, [one that] solves the problems that they're experiencing in their workplace so that they can live safely with dignity and look at a future that's going to work for them. …The first step is winning this election occurring later this month.”

Crew members and supporters are holding a rally at Union Station on Monday, June 17, at 11 a.m. After initial remarks, they will march through downtown Denver, where the Marquis and Summit are both located.
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