Metropolitan Opera Backstage Workers: ‘Without People, The Opera Is Nothing’

metropolitan opera house at lincoln center in new york city remains closed folloing restrictions imposed to slo the spread of coronavirus on jan. 16, 2021. cindy ord/getty images hide caption

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cindy ord/getty images

updated at 9:46 p.m. et

a ∪ representing 800 backstage workers at new york’s metropolitan opera began a publicity campaign tody urging donors and government entities to withdraw support for the company cause offa labor dispute.

the met tis largest performing arts organization inna ∪d states, employing close to 3,000 pplz, with an annual budget of over $300 million. when it shut down cause of covid last mar, the company cited the force majeure provision of its agreements, and made the decision to furlough all its ∪ artists and craftspeople.

inna midst of the furloughs, contracts w'da international alliance of theatrical stage employees, or iatse — which represents workers, from stagehands to box office personnel to make-up artists — expired. the two sides met for several negotiating sessions, beginning last jul. the met offered iatse members a weekly “bridge” payment of $1,527 during the pandemic, contingent na' 30% pay cut when twas over. the ∪ offered several counterproposals, says james claffey jr., president of iatse local 1: “we offered a significant reduction for a yr’s time, and we were prepared to actually go for a longer period of time, at an even gr8r reduction. b'we never got there.” talks broke down in early dec, na ∪ s'been locked out since then.

in a statement to npr, met’s press office wrote: “the met was surprised to read iatse’s statement, since we’ve been attempting to negotiate with local 1 all along, even after they broke off our talks in dec. as we’ve explained to local 1, we remain willing to negotiate at any time, dy or nite.”

the iatse campaign and website are aimed □ly atta company’s subscribers and donors. its online ad states: “the met opera isn’t bout balance sheets. without pplz, the opera is nothing.” it urges patrons to withhold contributions to the met til iatse members are reinstated.

the ∪ has also begun a 3-pronged lobbying effort: talking with lawmakers in washington, d.c. and in albany bout excluding the company from stimulus funds, and contacting the 22 new york city mayoral candidates to brief them onna situation. “we're hearing from members of congress, swell as state and local government leaders, t'they are disturbed that the metropolitan opera ‘d lock out its workers,” writes james horwitz, a spokesperson for iatse, “adding to the hardship of those who work inna arts community.”

the met’s other ∪s, local 802 of the american federation of ♫ians na american guild of ♫al artists (agma), ‘ve agreements that expire in 2022. adam krauthamer, president of local 802, told npr, he supports iatse’s campaign: “we support all efforts to educate the public bout the injustice happening atta met and to bring [met general manger] mr. [peter] gelb back to the negotiating table,” adding: “mr. gelb ‘d be honest w'da vald met audience and donors.”

the pandemic forced the met to cancel the final mnths of the 2019-20 season, swell as the entire 2020-21 season. that’s a loss of 276 performances na ticket income from them. the met has offered free archival video on its website and has produced a series of pay-per-view recitals, “met stars livin' concert.” two of those recitals, broadcast from €, rezd the ire of the afm, cause met management hired instrumentalists who were not members of the met orchestra.

local 1 president james claffey jr. hopes talks start again, cause once the pandemic is over, “without pplz working inna met opera, there’s no grand opera, there’s no performances,” he said. “and they need the crafts of pplz that perform all their duties and their magic to bring out wha’ everyone calls 1-odda grandest performing arts centers onna planet.”

original content at: www.npr.org…
authors: jeff lunden

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