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Metropolitan Opera Avoids Strike by Making Deal with Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists

Friday, March 29, 2019

After a Unanimous Strike Vote, Met Management Came Back to the Table to Make a Deal

NEW YORK, NY – Members of Local 798 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IA), representing makeup artists and hair stylists at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, reached a tentative agreement with Met Management to keep employees on the job. The deal came approximately an hour after members had voted unanimously to authorize a strike against the company.

“We’re pleased that the Met came to the table and agreed to treat our members fairly,” said Local 798 Business Representative Daniel Dashman. “The Met Opera hair and makeup crew is among the finest I’ve ever seen. Nobody wanted to shut down the performances, but we were ready to do what we had to do to get this deal for our members.”

A major sticking point settled by the agreement was a pay discrepancy between the union’s two crafts: hair stylists have been paid a lower rate than makeup artists, despite working with the same actors on the same production, often at the same time. This disparity was corrected in the 2013 contract, but the language was later stripped out by an arbitrator. Local 798 members felt strongly about the importance of correcting this unfair situation, and makeup artists were prepared to strike to support their sisters and brothers.

“This deal gives Local 798’s members the respect they deserve,” said IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb. “While the people who do these jobs are often out of sight backstage, their work is on view for thousands every day. By making this deal, the Met has shown that they respect the professionals who keep their shows going.”

The two sides met for several hours on Tuesday, and were unable to reach an agreement. That meeting was the first since December of 2018, and Met Management had not updated their proposals since that time. There were several meetings over the intervening days, eventually resulting in a deal on Friday morning. The Met’s contract with its makeup artists and hair stylists expired last year.

Makeup and hair styling are especially important to The Met: Live in HD, the opera’s signature live broadcast to cinemas nationwide, in partnership with Fathom Events. The Met is scheduled to broadcast a live performance of Wagner’s Die Walküre on Saturday, which may have been disrupted by a strike. That performance will now go on as scheduled.

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International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 798 members are the artists responsible for hair and makeup at the Met Opera. Five other local unions of the IATSE represent backstage employees at the Metropolitan Opera: Local 1 represents skilled craftspeople who are experts with carpentry, lighting, sound, props, set and building construction. Local 764 includes costume shop employees who create the costumes, along with dressers who assist the performers with their costumes. Other 764 members represent the child actor guardians who care for children backstage. Local 751 are the workers who most frequently interact with the public, box office employees such as Treasurers and Ticket Sellers. Local 794 represents technicians involved in the Met’s live broadcasts. USA 829 (Scenic Artists and Designers) represents scenic artists as well as the designers of sets, lighting, costumes, and sound.

For more information, contact:
Matthew Cain
(212) 730-1770
mcain@iatse.net