LOS ANGELES, CA — The stagehands, dressers, treasurers and ticket sellers, musicians, performers, stage managers, and hair and make-up artists of the Los Angeles Opera are all represented by unions, and work with the protections that a union contract provides. However, it wasn’t until Tuesday that the craftspeople of the LA Opera’s costume shop, who are largely LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, or women, gained these same benefits.
The unanimously ratified three-year agreement delivers considerable victories for costume shop employees. Workers will see wage increases ranging between 30%-52% depending on job classification. In addition to the annual wage increases over the span of the agreement (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2025) the contract also contains:
- Retro pay back to July 1, 2022
- Time limits on how long someone can be classified in the two lowest wage categories.
- For the first time, overhire workers will get health care contributions, vacation pay, and retirement contributions.
- The company will pay substantial bridge health care payments to ensure a seamless transition to the Entertainment Flex Plan.
- A 3% increase to retirement contributions.
- 10-hour rest period and a double-time penalty for turnaround invasion.
- A 40 hour weekly guarantee for all Full Time employees.
- Other contractual provisions
The artisans tasked with maintaining the Opera’s vast array of costumes voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation by IATSE Local 768 in December of 2021, and while the several months of negotiations which followed the vote were productive, they were also challenging. LAO costume employees handed out leaflets to guests at the Opera’s Opening Night Gala performance on September 17th and again on October 22nd to bring awareness to a lack of movement by the LAO management on key issues. Fortunately, negotiations ultimately proved fruitful, and will ensure all workers in the costume shop earn a living wage and have access to quality health care and retirement funds.
“Prior to forming their union, a large majority of workers were unable to save money for emergencies or plan for the future,” said IATSE Representative Allison Smartt. “The contract’s increased wages, benefits, and job security will mean these amazing craftspeople can have family sustaining careers; and with their union, can have more agency in their work lives.”