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.