It's a living.
What they do is essential but unremarkable. Turns out that it is remarkably well-paid, however. Would you believe $422,599 a year? Plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation? That is what a fellow named Dennis O'Connell makes at Carnegie Hall. He is the props manager, the highest-paid stagehand. Four other guys, two of them carpenters, two electricians, are paid somewhat lesser amounts, ranging down to $327,257, plus $76,459 in benefits and deferred compensation, for the junior member of the team, John Goodson, an electrician.
The Carnegie stagehands' pay was something else again, but not, as it turns out, unique. At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year.Adjusting lights and moving chairs, and the guy is pulling down 300K? You would think an open, competitive market might allow for such work to be accomplished at a lower cost, but that's what good help costs these days. Well, actually, that's the cost of the help, whether they're good or not.
And what do we owe our thanks to? Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They also have requirements for minimum number of workers for any given job. It matters not whether they are needed. Also the benefits package that comes with these duties is valued on average at 75K a year.
Fair wages for an honest day's labor? I think the curtain has come down on that one.