Members of the stagehands union were advised this week to prepare for a picket at the Metropolitan Opera in anticipation of a lockout. And according to one union source involved in the current talks between the Met and 12 of its unions, "there's virtually no chance of a deal" this week.
The Met has pushed its contract deadline to Sunday night while a third-party financial analyst has been examining its books for over a week. But sources independently confirmed that the parties remain far apart on monetary and philosophical issues. If talks break down, a lockout could happen as early as Monday.
So where will the Met labor dispute end up? And how are the different parties making their cases? In this podcast, three views:
- James Jorden, editor of the opera blog Parterre Box and a contributor to the New York Observer.
- Drew McManus, an arts consultant who writes the blog Adaptistration.
- Lois S. Gray, a Professor of Labor Management Relations Emeritus at Cornell University.
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Why not continue to talk and prepare for the season without a contract?
McManus: "All of this circles around using deadlines as bargaining leverage. There's no way that playing and talking can continue indefinitely."
Gray: "One of the reasons why the Met is forcing an early deadline before the season starts is that during the season, the leverage would be on the part of the union, to call a strike while the production is on."
Why haven't the company's stars been more vocal in the dispute?
Jorden: "From what I hear, there's a real division in AGMA [the singers' union] between the principals and chorus, stage managers and other groups. AGMA is basically a chorus union. I don't think there would be that much enthusiasm on the part of the principals to say, 'oh yes, we really need to support AGMA.'"
How is the union's P.R. strategy of attacking general manager Peter Gelb working for them?
McManus: "It's worth pointing out that the animosity that's being directed toward Gelb has not been directed towards the organization's board of directors. They've been pretty much been off-limits. You have to have a way for either side to save face. In this case, by not attacking the board and focusing on Gelb instead, it doesn't target the board's reputation for governance. If they decide to meet the musicians on Gelb's management style, that's more oversight."
Has the Met effectively made its case to the public, that it needs to save money through cuts to labor costs?
Gray: "Does the Met have to cut costs or does it have to raise more money? This is an issue for symphony orchestras throughout the United States and it's true of the whole cultural sector."
McManus: "The Met's strategy so far has been a zero-sum bargaining strategy: 'Here's the percentage of cuts and we're willing to talk about where the cuts have to happen.' If the Met continues to adopt that policy, the likelihood for a lockout is very high."
Listen to the full segment above and tell us what you think of negotiations in the comments box below.