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We Saved the Met

New York, NY – After months of a major media campaign, tense negotiations, and staring down the threat of a lockout, fair labor agreements were secured with the IATSE locals unions whose contracts expired at the Metropolitan Opera July 31. The new agreements are for seven IATSE Locals: IATSE Local One (Stagehands), Local 751 (Treasurers and Ticket Sellers), Local 764 (Theatrical Wardrobe), Local 794 (TBSE), Local 798 (Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists), Local USA 829 (United Scenic Artists), and Local 829EE (Bill Posters). 

The venerable cultural institution was on the brink of collapse, facing a multimillion-dollar ever-growing deficit due to management’s outlandish misspending on Grand Opera and new global HD simulcasts. Beginning in March, the Met had taken a position that the only solution to the problem was to cuts the wages and conditions of the employees. To this end the Met threatened to lockout 15 unions (7 of which were IA) if they all did not agree to 16% cuts in wages and benefits in year one of any successor agreement.  They also hired council that ran successful major lockout campaigns (NHL & MLS referees) to show their willingness to uphold a lockout. 

The seven IATSE Locals, with the coordination of the International, began a comprehensive media campaign to “Save The Met.” This presented the issues of the workers at the Met and pushed for a comprehensive approach to ensure the institution and represented jobs would continue for another 100 years.  In addition, all of the Locals coordinated their negotiation tactics and strategy for the first time in order to make sure that all of the members of the Alliance at the Met would be equally represented and no craft would bear a larger burden than the others to relieve the management’s financial maleficence. 

“Save The Met” became a meme not only on buttons at the Met, but also at opera houses across North America, in the UK and Europe with the solidarity of workers represented by sister unions BECTU and VER.DI. A social media campaign developed, focusing on the workers at the Met, with strategic online ad purchases and a petition signed by over 7,500 to “Save the Met.” A bannering campaign across the US at HD screenings of Met Opera spread the “Save the Met” message to operagoers outside of New York.  In tandem with the use of new media, a constant traditional media presence in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Huffington Post, BBC Radio, the Associated Press and many others kept the talking point of “Save the Met” as a rallying cry for the workers at the Met and pressure on Met management to find a solution to the issues they faced that was more than just on the backs of the employees.  All of this culminated with a letter from President Loeb directly to the members of the Metropolitan Opera Board explaining that we needed their help to “Save the Met” as well.

After multiple bargaining sessions in the final hours that went thorough the night, several extended deadlines from the Met of lockout, a deal was reached that was fair and equitable for all sides.

International President Loeb commented, “We’ve said since bargaining began in May that IA members understand the financial realities facing the Metropolitan Opera. We’ve always been willing to contribute to a solution that will keep the world’s best operas in front of the world’s greatest opera fans.

The agreement we reached today – which includes mandatory cost reductions from management and an independent monitor to track budget performance – offers a way to get the Met on a track for success.”

Image: 
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees