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IATSE News | Not Done Yet: The Met Opera Still Has Contracts to Settle

Stage Directions • Stage DirectionsTheater News • August 24, 2021

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IATSE Local One members have been back at work for a month under contract, following a seven-month lockout. The musicians and chorus also have reached agreements. But designers, scenic artists, and ticket sellers are still at the bargaining table.

New York – Last month, 98 percent of the members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ratified a new five-year contract with the Metropolitan Opera. The agreement between the Met Opera and IATSE Local One ended a lockout that stretched seven months. Stagehands and skilled craftspeople are now back at work preparing for the new opera season, scheduled to begin Sept. 27. However, other Met workers, represented by IATSE, whose work is critical to the opera’s operations, are still seeking new labor agreements.

“We’re not done yet,” said IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “Our union has many members at the Met beyond those represented by Local One. We still need to make sure that their contracts are settled, and their issues are addressed.”

This week, IATSE Local 751, which represents the opera company’s ticket sellers, is scheduled to meet with the Met Opera’s management. The IATSE-affiliated United Scenic Artists, Local 829, whose members design lighting, costumes, and sets, and paint the sets and backdrops, are scheduled to appear at the bargaining table Wednesday and Thursday.

“Creative deal-making by Local One and the Met’s management produced savings for the Met Opera while ensuring that any loss of income to our members would be short term and that leave, retirement and health care benefits would be protected,” said IATSE Local One President James J. Claffey Jr. “The agreement we reached paved the way for workers to return to the opera house and kept the 2021-2022 opera season from being cancelled.”

In December 2020, the Met locked out 350 stagehands and others represented by IATSE Local One. The Met Opera, with roughly 3,000 workers, is the largest performing arts organization in the United States.

During the lockout the Met Opera sent production work for two operas, Rigoletto and Don Carlos, that would normally be handled by American workers in New York, to a company in Wales in the United Kingdom. Sets for Fire Shut up in my Bones, scheduled for a September 27, opening-night premiere, were sent to a non-union production operation on the West Coast. While members of the United Scenic Artists were not locked out, much of their work was sent to the shops on the West Coast and Wales in clear violation of their contract.

Further information from the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE):

International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) local unions representing the Metropolitan Opera’s artistic and technical workers include: Local One represents skilled craftspeople who are experts in carpentry, lighting, sound, props, and set and building construction. Local 764 includes costume shop employees who create the costumes, and dressers who assist the performers with their costumes. Local 751 is comprised of the workers who most frequently interact with the public–box-office employees such as treasurers and ticket sellers. Local 798 includes the artists responsible for hair and makeup. Local 794 represents technicians involved in the Met’s live broadcasts. USA 829 represents scenic artists as well as the designers of sets, lighting, costumes, and sound.



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