IATSE Local One and the Metropolitan Opera Reach a Tentative Agreement Paving the Way for Opera Season to Begin – If Contract is Ratified by the Union’s Membership
NEW YORK – After nearly round-the-clock negotiations at the end of June that lasted into the July 4th holiday weekend, negotiators for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local One and the Metropolitan Opera reached a tentative agreement for a new contract. Stage and shop crew members of IATSE Local One employed at the Met Opera were briefed by the union’s president James J. Claffey Jr. and the union’s bargaining team on the settlement this morning. The tentative agreement will now go to the full membership of the local union for a ratification vote on July 18. As a result of an overwhelming majority of the Met’s stage and shop crew members voting in favor of submitting a positive recommendation to the full membership to ratify the agreement, IATSE Local One members are expected to begin work in the opera house starting tomorrow, Wednesday, July 7.
If a tentative agreement had not been reached this week, the opening of the 2021-2022 opera season would have been postponed or possibly the season cancelled.
Details to be release July 18
Full details of the agreement will be released after members of IATSE Local One review the contract and vote on ratification July 18.
“Getting to this point required overcoming hard feelings due to the lockout of our members and crafting some innovative solutions,” said Claffey. “We were coming down to the wire. If talks had dragged on any longer it may have been impossible to prepare the opera house for a September opening. This agreement makes it possible for the 2021-2022 opera season to begin as scheduled.”
In December, the Met locked out 350 stagehands and others represented by IATSE Local One. The Met Opera, with roughly 3,000 workers, is the largest performing arts organization in the United States. It also is the only arts company in America that locked out its workers during the pandemic. During the lockout the Met Opera sent production work for two operas, Rigoletto and Don Carlos that would normally be done by American workers in New York, to a company in Wales, in the United Kingdom. Sets for Fire Shut up in my Bones, scheduled for a September 27, opening-night premier,were sent to a non-union production operation on the west coast.
Until Peter Gelb, the opera company’s executive director, approached the union last month, no formal or informal talks had occurred between Local One and the opera company’s managers for seven months. Gelb asked the union to return the week of June 7 to work to prepare the opera house and load in sets for the upcoming opera season. The union said its crews would only return with a contract, and proposed a period of intensive bargaining. The Met agreed. Contract talks began on June 7 and unlike earlier rounds of negotiations in 2020, Gelb was present at the bargaining table.
Not Done Yet
“It would have been a new kind of opera tragedy if the Met remained closed,” said IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “But we’re not done yet. Our union has many members at the Met beyond those represented by Local One. We need to make sure that their contracts are settled and their issues are addressed.”
Over the past few months, IATSE has been forced to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board because opera managers have failed to respond to information requests from the union or adequately address safety issues.
In addition to stagehands and skilled craftspeople who are members of Local One, IATSE represents Met workers who broadcast the stage productions, design lighting and paint backdrops, prepare wardrobe and costumes, and style hair and makeup, along with many others who make the magic on stage happen.
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International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) local unions representing the Metropolitan Opera’s artistic and technical workers include: Local One represents skilled craftspeople who are experts in carpentry, lighting, sound, props, and set and building construction. Local 764 includes costume shop employees who create the costumes, and dressers who assist the performers with their costumes. Local 751 is comprised of the workers who most frequently interact with the public–box-office employees such as treasurers and ticket sellers. Local 798 includes the artists responsible for hair and makeup. Local 794 represents technicians involved in the Met’s live broadcasts. USA 829 represents scenic artists as well as the designers of sets, lighting, costumes and sound.
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