Indiana Stagehands Union Willing to Turn Over Records

October 21, 2011

Attorneys for a state safety agency and a stagehands union moved closer Wednesday to settling a disagreement over documents sought as part of the agency’s investigation into the deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse.

A lawyer for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 said he is willing to turn over apprenticeship training files on employees who were working during the Aug. 13 collapse that fatally injured seven people.

The tentative agreement was worked out before a court hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday. A Marion County judge continued until Nov. 3 both that hearing and his stay of a search warrant obtained by state investigators seeking the apprenticeship files and other documents.

Local 30 attorney William Groth told The Indianapolis Star the agreement to turn over the training records is tentative until further consultation by both sides.

“We are trying to resolve this in a non-adversarial way,” Groth said. “We want to cooperate, we just think a search warrant is the nuclear option.”

Last week, investigators from the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration were turned away when they tried to serve the warrant at Local 30’s Indianapolis offices.

The union contends that IOSHA, which investigates workplace calamities, didn’t have jurisdiction to search the union hall. It argues that the stagehands were employed by the State Fair Commission and said that’s where IOSHA’s focus should be.

IOSHA said it needs to check the backgrounds of the stagehands to do a thorough investigation. The agency’s warrant seeks employment disciplinary records, apprenticeship training records, certificates, licenses and OSHA logs.

The stagehands and riggers erected the scaffolding and stage rigging that toppled in strong winds as fans of the country duo Sugarland waited for the band’s concert to start.

One stagehand, Nathan Byrd, was killed and at least nine other union members were among the more than 40 people injured in the collapse.

IOSHA’s investigation is in addition to two ongoing probes by outside firms that state fair officials estimate will cost nearly $1 million by year’s end. More than 50 tort claims – the precursor to possible lawsuits – have been filed with the state over the collapse.

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