Met Opera Building Workers Rally at Lincoln Center

Friday, July 25, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Members of the service workers' union 32BJ gathered outside Lincoln Center Thursday to protest proposed benefit cuts Members of the service workers' union 32BJ gathered outside Lincoln Center to protest proposed benefit cuts

The union representing the Metropolitan Opera’s janitors, ushers and security guards held a rally Thursday afternoon at  Lincoln Center, a day after the company's management warned of a potential lockout. The workers were protesting what they called the "Met Opera's Poverty Proposal." They say benefit cuts and wage freezes would put a difficult strain on them – more than on the other unionized staff.

Rex Romero is a porter with the Met. "You've got a bunch of people like myself who work at the Met in office services, in security, in building services, and even the ushers and the safety men, who – there's no way," he said. "And not to diminish the other unions who are involved in this but, you know, we don’t get paid what they get paid."

Romero expects Met general manager Peter Gelb will carry through on a lockout if a deal isn't reached. "I think that the way things are going, he'll lock us out August 1 if he could but we don’t want that," he said. "But we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen."

About 150 Met workers are part of 32BJ SEIU, the country's largest property service workers union. Fifteen of the Met's 16 union contracts expire on July 31. The Met is seeking deep concessions for the first time in decades, as it faces to slowing box office revenues and reluctant donors. Labor costs eat up about two-thirds of the company’s budget.

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Comments [14]

floria from nyc

Simple solution.....get rid of the current incompetent opera administration; get rid of most of the ridiculous "modern" euro-trash productions; bring back the opera productions the people love - the Tosca, the Lohengrin, the Ring Cycle - you know, the productions those "gray-beards" (sic) that support the opera love. You bet the unions would be more amenable to deal with making sure the season opens.....but to deal with an administration that does not respect the music, the performers, nor the workers, and stubbornly gruffing it's back against them, the Met will fall on its sword.

Jul. 28 2014 01:40 PM
veets from Chicago

The people making the least amount are easy targets.
The bumbling of the funds from the top cause the shortfall. So why not pick on the little guy!?!?!?!?!?!?

Jul. 26 2014 07:25 PM
Emily Byrne Curtis from Hoboken, NJ

All we hear is that those responsible for putting on the Met Opera productions need agree to a major salary cut. What steps are Peter Gelb and the Met's board taking to reduce expenses?
We do not need anymore splashy productions such as the Ring cycle where, to cite an example, the metal plates didn't work very well.

Jul. 26 2014 01:57 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Very true. There should be SOME funding of the arts but not a bailout of the Met. This would be rewarding Gelb and the rest for their incompetency. We would have a clamoring for bailouts from everyone. We are bankrupt. Of course, we can still bomb all over the world.

Jul. 26 2014 01:53 PM
RALPH PISCITELLI from PALM COAST,FL.

IT IS SAD TO CONTEMPLATE A SHUT DOWN OF THE MET AS ITS 2014-2015 SEASON IS ABOUT TO START.
UNFORTUNATELY KENNETH BENNETT HAS THE CUSTOMARY SOLUTION OF HAVING THE GOVERNMENT BAIL OUT THE MET.I GUESS HE HAS NOT LEARNED THAT WE HAVE A $17 TRILLION DOLLARS DEBT WHICH WE WILL NEVER REPAY.
WHAT GELB SHOULD DO IS TO RE-DIRECT FUNDS DONATED FOR NEW PRODUCTIONS AND USE THAT MONEY TO SUSTAIN A BALANCED BUDGET AND AT THE SAME TIME NOT ENDANGER THE LIVING CONDITION OF ITS EMPLOYEES. MILLIONS HAVE BEEN SPENT ON PRODUCTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN SUB-PAR TO DISASTEROUS. SO IT IS TIME TO TAKE A LONG LOOK AT THE MONEY MANAGEMENT AT THE MET AND STICK WITH WHATEVER PRODUCTIONS YOU HAVE SO THAT NO ONE WILL BE HURT FINANCIALLY AND THE MET WILL STAY OPEN.

Jul. 26 2014 01:32 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

I am not wealthy enough to have a foundation but if I did, large contributions would be made with the provision that GELB MUST GO.
Traviata, Tosca, Un Ballo, Ring, OUT. Did not see the Parsifal. Rigoletto can stay. I thought it was a hoot.

Jul. 26 2014 09:40 AM

As negotiations continue to prevent the tragedy of work stoppage, at the MET, it is of tantamount importance, for management, at all levels, to remember all of the unions, concerned with these negotiations, set the world's highest standard for opera. Thus, just as the artists on the stage, backstage, and the support staff set the world/universe standard for this art form, so must all administrative staff do the same. It is my fervent hope, all concerned with these critical negotiations, will examine themselves and resolve to work together to continue this greatest of artistic traditions, which is simply known, as the MET.

As an important aside, I ask all management and labor representatives to please be transparent in these crucial negotiations. Hopefully, this has been the case all along, but if any information has been withheld, the light of day, can only make these negotiations processes work better. I truly hope management, as well as labor, can be persuaded to realize, a lockout on July 31 is NOT an option.

A friend of mine and I already have circled the three productions we want to see this fall, and he has already gone to the trouble (some inconvenience, both for him and for his employer) to reserve the dates. Until this labor issue is settled, we cannot make the substantial cash outlay for our typical once or twice a year NYC trip from Tampa, FL, which always revolves around the MET.

As a MET Guild member and modest donor, I humbly ask that all parties engage in self-examination, and vow to do what is necessary to ensure this great company endures forever as the BEST.

Jesse R. Hankla

Jul. 25 2014 08:43 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Jnstitute, Boonton, NJ

ONCE CLOSED, OPERA COMPANIES TEND TO CEASE TO EXIST. This fact MUST govern our activist engagement in the process of installing a truly appropriate general manager. This is no joke, this is really serious business. Opera lovers will never forgive themselves if their inaction leads to the demise of our major cultural institution outside of the universities. The professionals who may be helpful in working out agreements and coordination of vital activities will have gone on to other salaried positions and are unlikely to risk their income for a conditional arrangement that may not last. Appealing to the lowest common denominator may be OK in sports, but it will not work out in the serious art forms or in science. Whatever one's tastes and background, it is important to sustain and support the masterpieces, the icons of one's civilization. Fads do not last. We owe it to future generations as well as our own to secure the traditions and achievements of geniuses who gave their all and usually did not benefit greatly financially.

Jul. 25 2014 05:28 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

No matter what one says, if indeed, the MET OPERA is to close down, we have GOT TO ORGANIZE influential people to have governmental support at least in a transitional period. Look what happened to our space program when it was defunded. Scientists had to find work elsewhere and to reorganize the personnel optimally the search was difficult and some say not adequate to the mission. The MET OPERA standards had better be more consistent with its best years past knowing how the "keeper of the treasure" has NOT to POLLUTE ITS CHEMISTRY WITH JUNK !!!
Comments here on the blogs and on the street reiterate the same message GET SOMEONE WITH THE EXPERIENCE IN RUNNING A MAJOR INSTITUTION LIKE THE MET OPERA TO EXCISE THE JUNK AND BRING BACK THE LOFTY STANDARDS THAT HAS MADE THE MET OPERA THE MODEL UPON WHICH OTHERS COULD DRAW INSPIRATION AND JOY !!! DO IT NOW !!!

Jul. 25 2014 04:59 PM
Muleman from Denver

Both the Met and the unions need to understand that the "same old" way won't work any more.
During a "60 Minutes" piece, Peter Gelb appeared to understand that, if changes aren't made, the Met will die with its current gray beard audience.
Here are some ideas for both sides to consider:
1. Reach out to younger demographics. Do shows that include the Katy Perrys and the Drakes of the world. During these shows, introduce some approachable parts of opera ("Carmen"; "Aida") to entice the younger people to return for a full show.
2. The Live in HD is great- but may be a drain on NYC audiences. Consider not showing these programs within a 50 mile radius of the Met Opera House.
3. Put on pension fund concerts and performances - again with both opera and more modern performers. The Met should provide all aspects of the house without charge. All performers, ushers, stagehands, etc. should provide their services for free - with all net proceeds (after deductions for such things as utilities) going to the pension funds.
4. Engage a qualified, experienced mediator NOW.

Jul. 25 2014 03:12 PM
Bernie from UWS

I loved the new Traviata. Ditto the Parsifal and Rigoletto. Others I've been mixed on.

The workers must realize that everywhere people are seeing health plans and pensions scaled back. That doesn't make it right, but it's the way of the world.

Jul. 25 2014 01:09 PM
John from NJ

Ditto to what

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

just said.

Spot on! Stop with these "modernized" productions. The current La Traviata is pure TRASH. I will never pay to see it.

Jul. 25 2014 12:59 PM
kriss from Piscataway, NJ

I think it's time for the opera lovers of NYC to do whatever it takes to get the Met management to back down before they destroy our beloved opera company! Is there someone out there who understands the situation and can spearhead a petition, strike fund drive, or other action?

Jul. 25 2014 12:41 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The "missing link" here is the abject financial corruption in this country that subverts the well-intentional resolves to improve the situation to "IT'S NOT MY FAULT" when the ideal time arrives and no one seems to have the support to garner the needed funds. NO OPERA COMPANY HAS EVER RETURNED AFTER CLOSING DOWN !!! The Boston Opera and the New Orleans Opera are just two of the many that never returned. Let's get the government to intercede with financial support in the interim before a new administrator who can shelve the nonsensical. purely designed for sensationalism, productions that misrepresent the composers and lyricists intentions. Just as an example of how even highly touted projects have suffered, examine what has happened to NASA. It'sbeen 45 years since anything newsworthy has happened in our space program, due to government's lack of financial support.

Jul. 25 2014 12:33 PM

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