Metropolitan Opera Labor Dispute: Ongoing Coverage

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Monday, Aug. 18 at 6:20 am: Contract Deals Reached

The Metropolitan Opera says it has reached contract agreements with two of its largest unions: Local 802, representing the orchestra musicians, and AGMA, representing singers, dancers and directors.

The company extended the contract deadline through midnight on Tuesday to allow Local One, representing stagehands, and the nine other remaining unions more time to negotiate. Local One told its members that planned picket lines at the Met have been cancelled for today.

The announcement came early Monday as talks between the Met and its unionized workers continued past a midnight deadline.

Full coverage.

Sunday, Aug. 17 at 9 pm: Deadline Looms

Negotiations are underway as a new deadline approaches for the Metropolitan Opera and 12 of its unions to agree on a new contract. Talks were extended by a week last Sunday, and a federal mediator has been using that time to examine the Met's books. The NYPD stationed a mobile command unit in front of Lincoln Center on Sunday in preparation for a possible picket on Monday morning. Barricades were also stashed at various places around the complex. 

Monday, Aug. 11 at 1 pm: Financial Review 'Nearing Completion'

The Federal mediator involved in the Metropolitan Opera's labor dispute said on Monday that an independent financial review of the company was "nearing its completion," and that postponed talks between the company and its unions will resume at that point.


The Met has now moved the contract deadline for its unionized orchestra musicians, singers, and stagehands to Sunday, Aug. 17. If a deal isn't reached by then, it plans to move ahead with a threatened lockout.

The third-party financial analysis, which was announced on August 3, was scheduled to be completed on Sunday, more than a week after contracts with the unions had expired. Eugene Keilin, of KPS Capital Partners, has been conducting the study. The Met had no further comment other than to say, "we look forward to resuming our negotiations with the unions, and hope that we can come to agreement in advance of the new deadline."

The Met's unions say they have been pressing for the Met to open its books for several months.

Met management says the opera house's costs have grown unsustainable and is seeking concessions. The unions have resisted.

5:00 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6: Met Blames Larger Debt on Declining Contributions

WNYC reports that the Met's fiscal deficit this year will be larger than the $2.8 million loss it incurred last year according to a financial disclosure document uncovered by the Wall Street Journal. This may not be surprising considering that the company is claiming the shortfall is the reason it needs to negotiate more favorable labor contracts. However, the Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Maloney told WNYC that the reasons the Met offers for its fiscal shortfall differ from a year ago when it cited lower ticket sales.

5:16 pm Sunday, Aug. 3: More Details on the Extension

Saturday evening, the Metropolitan Opera and two of its unions agreed to a one-week extension of the current contract, so that an independent analyst can conduct a study of the Met's finances. The announcement was issued by the three parties currently negotiating with a federal mediator: the Met, AGMA (representing singers and dancers) and Local 802 (representing the orchestra).

Eugene Keilin, who will conduct the study, is a co-founder of KPS Capital Partners.  In the past, he has been a partner of Lazard Freres & Co.; he also served as Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (created to deal with New York City's 1975 fiscal crisis), and of the Citizens Budget Commission.

The unions have been asking the Met for months to open its books, so that they can see whether management's proposed cuts are justified.  All contract discussions have been put on hold while the financial study is assembled, and all workers will continue on the job.

6 am Sunday, Aug. 3: One-Week Contract Extension Announced

The Met and the unions representing singers and the orchestra have agreed to a one-week extension of contracts to allow a third-party financial analyst investigate the Met's finances.

See more tweets from the ongoing labor dispute here.

5 pm Friday, Aug. 1: More Updates to Come Monday
The new deadline for a labor agreement is Sunday at 11:59 pm, following the Met's 72-hour reprieve. Meanwhile, work resumed Friday in some of the company's shops: the chorus rehearsed for a new production of The Merry Widow; stagehands held technical rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro; still other musicians attended a costume fitting. Check back here on Monday for further updates.

11 am, Friday, Aug. 1: Local 802 Rallies at Lincoln Center
Workers from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra staged a rally in front of Lincoln Center on Friday morning, hours after the company extended its labor talks with unions by 72 hours, averting a midnight lockout threat.

Tino Gagliardi, the president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, spoke to the crowd of about 100 workers and news media. "We are here in front of the Metropolitan Opera House this morning to say to Peter Gelb: do not lock us out," said Gagliardi, referring to the Met’s general manager.

Gagliardi went on to express his wishes that the federal mediator – who was brought into the talks late yesterday – will "yield transparency on the part of Met Management" and "require the Met to give full consideration to cost savings."

Gail Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, each voiced their support for the unions and warned against a lockout, citing its impact on businesses around Lincoln Center.

Before and after the press conference, a brass quintet played selections from Carmen, Boris Godunov and Nabucco while a dancer on stilts cavorted gingerly through the crowd.

The Met said Friday in a statement that it is hopeful that the negotiating period extension will allow for productive talks with the unions. “We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we’ve agreed to an extension," said Gelb.

An average full-time orchestra member at the Met earns $200,000 in pay and $85,000 in benefits, including 16 weeks off with pay, according to an analysis by the New York Times. Citing slowing box office and reluctant donors, the Met wants to cut musicians’ compensation by roughly 17 percent through various work-rule changes. Labor costs gobble up about two-thirds of the Met's annual budget. --Brian Wise

Jessica Phillips Rieske, clarinetist in the Met Opera Orchestra speaks at the Local 802 Rally
Jessica Phillips Rieske, clarinetist in the Met Opera Orchestra speaks at the Local 802 Rally

10:55 pm, Thursday, July 31: Contract Deadline Extended by 72 Hours
The Metropolitan Opera has postponed a lockout of some 2,400 of its workers that was scheduled to go into effect at midnight Friday. The Met and the unions agreed to a federal mediator's request for a 72-hour reprieve so that talks could continue on new labor contracts.

Deals have been reached with three of the 15 unions whose contracts expired at midnight: Local 32BJ, which represents ushers, ticket takers, cleaning staff and other service workers; Local 210, which represents the call center; and Local 30, which represents building engineers.

The majority of the work force is still without a deal, however, including the unions representing singers, dancers, orchestra musicians and stagehands.

Alan Gordon, the executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents the singers, directors and dancers, told WQXR late Thursday that the main sticking point is money. He characterized the 72-hour extension as a one-time reprieve. Gordon also cautioned that one of AGMA's chief negotiators will not be available after Friday's negotiation session until next Wednesday, meaning that in reality, "it’s not really possible to do this in 72 hours."

Gordon added that without the July 31 lockout, employee health coverage will now be automatically renewed for another month, regardless of events over the coming days.

Met general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement, "We want to work together with union representatives, and do everything we can to achieve new contracts, which is why we’ve agreed to an extension."

Allison Beck, a deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, arrived in New York from Washington early this evening. She met with AGMA and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents the orchestra musicians. The unions have told their members to report to work in the morning. --Brian Wise

9:00 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: Mayor Bill de Blasio 'Closely Monitoring'
Silence from the bargaining table. Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement earlier in the evening: “We have been closely monitoring the ongoing talks between the Met and its workers, and stand ready to assist however we can.”

3:30 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: City Controller Wades Into Dispute
New York City Controller Scott Stringer urges the Met to extend negotiations and avoid a lockout. "Tourism spending in New York City is an important driver of our economy, with more than $36 billion spent in 2012," he said in a statement. "The Met’s performers, stagehands, technicians, and assistants deserve a fair outcome, as do the scores of restaurants, shops and other vendors that rely on the Opera for their livelihoods. I urge the Met to extend negotiations and not lock-out its union workers."

12:55 pm Thursday, July 31, Update: Mediator Joins Talks with Met and Unions
The Unions representing the chorus and orchestra at the Metropolitan Opera have agreed to a federal mediator to help move talks along. The unions' contracts – along with those of 13 other unions – expire tonight at midnight.

The parties are to meet with Allison Beck, a representative of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In 2011, Beck mediated the contract dispute between New York City Opera and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents singers, chorus and directors.

AGMA and Local 802, which represents the orchestra musicians, will bargain in joint talks to begin, said Alan Gordon, AGMA's executive director. Negotiations are expected to go into the evening.

Local 802 has previously said it would agree to a mediator only if the Met backed off its lockout threats and extended the current contract. In a statement, the Met said, "It’s too early for us to know if we will be able to extend the contract deadline, but the Met is willing to compromise, and if the other groups are as well, we’re confident that we can reach new agreements." -- Brian Wise

Check back here for further updates.