Giant Rat Menaces Festival

    From virtually the moment it was proposed back in December, the MTK: Music to Know festival, scheduled for Aug. 13 and 14 at East Hampton Airport, has attracted attention, some of it negative, from residents who said, among other things, that staging an event for 9,500 ticketholders in the height of the summer was just too much.
    Now the event seems to have attracted something else: a 13-foot giant rat that could be inflated near the airport, on Industrial Road, to call attention to the wrath of union workers over the hiring of non-union labor to stage the show.
    The East Hampton Town Board is expected, at a meeting tonight, to issue a mass-gathering permit for daily demonstrations by up to 100 union members, plus the rat, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day from tomorrow through Aug. 13, the first day of the festival.
    The groups listed on the permit are the Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, Theatrical Stagehands Local 340, and the Teamsters Local 817, all based in Nassau County.
    Reached yesterday by phone, Chris Jones, one of the dogged organizers of the festival, which will feature bands such as Vampire Weekend, Bright Eyes, and Ellie Goulding, who performed this spring at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, said he was aware of the request for a demonstration, but doubted it would come to pass.
    “We’ve actually been talking to the union for a couple of months now,” he said. “We’ve already had several meetings with them. They told us they were doing this.”
    “This is a process that they always do,” he said of the groups’ plans to demonstrate, “because it’s the only negotiating tool that they have.”
    “There’s no need to use union labor,” he said. “We don’t have to.” Hiring union stagehands and others, he said, was “a lot more expensive. It really comes down to the economics of the festival. But we’ll work something out with them.” He declined to detail what that might be, because of the ongoing negotiations.
    Calls to the union organizers of the event were not returned by press time.