North Bethesda, MD —Negotiators for IATSE Local 868, the Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Union, and Strathmore, Maryland’s world class performing arts center, reached a tentative agreement this week for a new contract, ending a rancorous two-year dispute between ticket sellers and the Montgomery County venue’s managers.
“It is our hope that with this agreement we can reset the relationship between Strathmore and ticket sellers,” said Anne Vantine, IATSE Local 868’s business manager. “Ticket sellers who provide outreach to patrons, manage the ticketing system, and handle the box office, are both the ambassadors and salesforce for this institution. It took far too long, but I believe that Strathmore’s managers have finally learned that devaluing our members is detrimental to Strathmore’s success.”
The tentative agreement preserves full-time and part-time jobs in the ticket office and includes future wage increases for all of the employees. The terms of the tentative agreement will be submitted to the membership for ratification.
Strathmore reneged on a contract with its staff last year. The music venue’s managers then sought to eliminate all full-time positions and gut the union’s contract, saying they needed “flexibility” not just during the pandemic, but for perpetuity. Ticket sellers viewed this action as an attempt to bust their union. The National Labor Relations Board twice determined that Strathmore’s management bargained in bad faith. The NLRB found, among other offenses, that Strathmore’s CEO and lawyer were making proposals solely to avoid reaching an agreement with the union.
In response, ticket sellers and their supporters set up banners and an inflatable rat outside Strathmore’s entrance prior to performances beginning last fall. Union members also posted protest signs along Rockville Pike and engaged patrons and the general public with information about Strathmore’s actions. More than 5,000 individuals signed an online petition calling on Strathmore to treat its workers fairly.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Strathmore’s founding partner and principal tenant, asked Strathmore to resolve the dispute. In order to give the two parties room to settle the dispute, the orchestra moved all of its 2021 performances from at the music center to Baltimore.
Montgomery County’s elected leaders, including County Executive Marc Elrich, alarmed by the loss of the BSO and damage to the county’s reputation, used their influence to seek an end to the contract dispute. In the Washington Post’s November 5 story on the venue’s self-imposed crisis, Elrich told the paper that Strathmore is “a county facility and what happens there will reflect on the image of the county.”
The ticket sellers and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are grateful for the support they received from Strathmore patrons, the BSO, the labor community, county leaders and the public at large, Vantine said.
“Ticket sellers are the voice and the face that the public hears and sees at Strathmore. It’s heartwarming to know so many in this community have our backs.” Vantine added, “The ticket sellers would now like to see Strathmore end its dispute with the BSO so that the music of the symphony can once again fill the music center.”