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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mediate...Deliberate...Negotiate?

At the 11th hour, the Met and two of its unions agree to explore mediation.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Members of INXS (including the deceased Michael Hutchence, left) show up unexpectedly
at Lincoln Center, where the negotiations between the Metropolitan Opera (left) and its
unions have entered crunch time.
Images of Michael Hutchence, Garry Gary Beers and Jon Farris from the
INXS video "Mediate" © 1987 Atlantic Records.
The Metropolitan Opera and its fifteen unions stand poised on the brink of a lockout that threatens to cancel part or all of the 2014-15 season. However, a report in today's New York Times by Michael Cooper states that a federal mediator is being asked to step into negotiations between Met general manager Peter Gelb and two of the key unions whose collective bargaining agreements expire at midnight tonight.
According to a report by Jennifer Maloney in today's Wall Street Journal, mediator Allison Beck, the deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service arrived in New York this afternoon from her base of operations in Washington D.C.

So far, Ms. Beck is only being asked to mediate the negotiations between the Met and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) (representing the singers, chorus and dancers) and Local 802, the musicians union representing the orchestra. Her mediation is non-binding.

The Times stated the members of Local 1 (the stagehands) agreed to an afternoon conference with Met negotiators. However, (the Journal reported) electricians and carpenters took their personal tools and belongings out of the opera house this afternoon in anticipation of a midnight lockout.

As the clock ticks down, there is a clear impasse between general manager Peter Gelb and the musicians, singers, ticket takers, security guards, carpenters, electricians...in short most of the 2,400 people employed by America's largest opera company. The cause of the crisis: diminished profits, a shrinking endowment and plummeting ticket sales in the last two years under Mr. Gelb, coupled with the general manager's stated desire to slash the benefits of his workers in the interest of cutting corners.

A lockout of any of these three unions at midnight tonight could threaten the company's planned Sept. 22 curtain-raiser with a new production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Ironically, Mozart's opera is beloved for its portrayal of conflict between the rich Count Almaviva and his valet, the wily Figaro who is determined to get married without allowing his employer to exercise "first night" rights over his fiancee. An extended lockout would have catastrophic consequences for the 2014-2015 Metropolitan Opera season, not to mention the donations that are the company's financial lifeblood.

The Met has  enjoyed a 34-year labor peace. The last  labor stoppage was in 1980, when the season did not start until December.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.