Regarding the Jan. 3 story, "Costs hamper Atlantic City arena/Boardwalk Hall at competitive disadvantage, some say":

Union labor has nothing to do with the city's failure to bring lower-budgeted entertainment acts to Boardwalk Hall. This article attempts to persuade readers that Stagehands Local 77 is responsible for Atlantic City's demographic woes and Boardwalk Hall's sneaky management. As a 35-year member of the stagehands union in Atlantic City, I can tell you that the quoted labor rates provided by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority are simply not accurate.

The tedious process of rigging sound and lighting systems for major shows in Boardwalk Hall is due to the antiquated building that makes the rigging of these systems an extremely dangerous and time-consuming process.

Unlike modern facilities, intersecting steel beams are not part of the Boardwalk Hall's arch construction, which would make rigging simpler. Instead, a makeshift aluminum grid has been installed above a portion of the floor-space to alleviate some of the logistics. But the structure is far from sufficient to allow expedient rigging of most large shows that require more space than the grid allows.

The actual cost of a stagehand's general labor is $28.31 per hour, which includes benefit contributions, and not $37.56. Riggers receive $32.20 an hour - not $41.26 - while risking their lives climbing onto the suspended grid 70 feet above the floor or working in bucket lifts and manually hoisting cable, chain and steel well in excess of 150 pounds to heights above 90 feet.

New York's labor rate is higher, but the demographics lead to a higher return on investment. Readers are led to believe A.C.'s woes are union-related, but the real problems is that seats remain empty for many unpopular shows.

The Press should use the Open Public Records Act to uncover the actual cost of labor charged to every incoming trade show, concert or special event in Atlantic City. It's not a secret that every Atlantic City venue exorbitantly marks up labor. Why should we, as union members, be painted as culprits in the eyes of uninformed readers?

MATTHEW A. PETTI

Brigantine