NEW YORK, NY — On Monday, Metropolitan Opera management announced that it plans to lock out union stagehands represented by IATSE Local One at midnight. These workers have been furloughed since April, and the Met’s management is demanding these workers take an extremely unreasonable 30% reduction of earnings for an indefinite period of time, and half of that (15%) reduction “in perpetuity” in exchange for short term relief payments.
Since March, the union has repeatedly stated we would not tolerate employers attempting to exploit the pandemic in order to erode the standards we worked so hard to establish in the first place. On the matter, IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said, “It’s outrageous for the Met to lockout its stagehands during the pandemic, and to leverage them for conditions the company was unable to get in normal times. It’s opportunistic, despicable, and demonstrates a real lack of compassion for so many in these already trying times.”
While it is disappointing Met bosses have chosen to lock out workers during a pandemic, it is not surprising. This is just one of several high-profile disputes with the Met since Peter Gelb took over as the General Manager. In 2019, Met Opera Hair And Make Up artists were forced to vote to authorize a strike after Met Management refused to compromise on pay issues for months, though a deal was reached before any workers actually walked off the job. And in July 2014, Gelb threatened to lockout union workers after pointing the blame at the Met’s unionized workforce for overrun costs, despite him ignoring his own mismanagement and rampant cost overruns unrelated to labor costs.
The Met’s workers are the Met; there is no Met without a workforce that can support themselves and their families. The costs of the current crisis should not and cannot be shifted so labor must carry the entire burden. In this pandemic we must truly be in this together to survive, and it is shameful that Peter Gelb and the Met’s management don’t seem to agree.
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Jonas Loeb IATSE, Director of Communications
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