The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling

Over the past year, 10 of the orchestra’s 97 members have retired, a stark increase from the two to three who retire in an average year, said Brad Gemeinhardt, the chairman of the orchestra committee, which negotiates labor issues on behalf of the musicians. Prominent figures in the music world are sounding warnings about the peril the orchestra faces: Riccardo Muti, the revered conductor, said in a statement earlier this year that the “artistic world is in disbelief that the very existence of a great orchestra like the Met’s could be in danger and even at risk of disappearing.” The Met, which was financially fragile even before the virus, was forced to shut its doors on March 12, 2020, and it furloughed most of its workers, including those in its orchestra and chorus, in April. (It continued to pay for their health coverage.) In the fall, the Met presented an offer to its employees: it would resume partial payments in exchange for significant long-term pay cuts and concessions. The unions resisted. By the end of the year the Met orchestra was the only major ensemble without a deal to receive pandemic pay, according to the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. Then, in December, the company locked out its roughly 300 stagehands after their union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, rejected the Met’s proposed pay cuts. (In a letter to the union last year, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote that the average full-time stagehand cost the Met $260,000 in 2019, including benefits; the union disputes that number, saying that when the steady extra stage hands who work at the Met regularly, and sometimes full-time, are factored in, the average pay is far lower.) Mr. Gelb said that the company had no choice but to seek cuts when the pandemic left it in a perilous financial situation. “Suddenly we had no revenue, we had shut our doors and we had to do immediate triage so that the company would not fall apart and fold,” Mr. Gelb said. “We are doing the best we can in terms of keeping the company viable so that they will have jobs to return to.” At the end of last year, the Met offered the unions that represent the orchestra and chorus an olive branch: reduced paychecks for simply coming to the bargaining table. The American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents choristers, dancers and others, accepted the arrangement in January, and its members are receiving paychecks. Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians has not yet accepted the offer, Adam Krauthamer, the union’s president, said, but it is in the final stages of reaching a deal that the orchestra is voting on.

The Met Opera’s Musicians, Unpaid Since April, Are Struggling
Over the past year, 10 of the orchestra’s 97 members have retired, a stark increase from the two to three who retire in an average year, said Brad Gemeinhardt, the chairman of the orchestra committee, which negotiates labor issues on behalf of the musicians. Prominent figures in the music world are sounding warnings about the peril the orchestra faces: Riccardo Muti, the revered conductor, said in a statement earlier this year that the “artistic world is in disbelief that the very existence of a great orchestra like the Met’s could be in danger and even at risk of disappearing.” The Met, which was financially fragile even before the virus, was forced to shut its doors on March 12, 2020, and it furloughed most of its workers, including those in its orchestra and chorus, in April. (It continued to pay for their health coverage.) In the fall, the Met presented an offer to its employees: it would resume partial payments in exchange for significant long-term pay cuts and concessions. The unions resisted. By the end of the year the Met orchestra was the only major ensemble without a deal to receive pandemic pay, according to the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. Then, in December, the company locked out its roughly 300 stagehands after their union, Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, rejected the Met’s proposed pay cuts. (In a letter to the union last year, Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, wrote that the average full-time stagehand cost the Met $260,000 in 2019, including benefits; the union disputes that number, saying that when the steady extra stage hands who work at the Met regularly, and sometimes full-time, are factored in, the average pay is far lower.) Mr. Gelb said that the company had no choice but to seek cuts when the pandemic left it in a perilous financial situation. “Suddenly we had no revenue, we had shut our doors and we had to do immediate triage so that the company would not fall apart and fold,” Mr. Gelb said. “We are doing the best we can in terms of keeping the company viable so that they will have jobs to return to.” At the end of last year, the Met offered the unions that represent the orchestra and chorus an olive branch: reduced paychecks for simply coming to the bargaining table. The American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents choristers, dancers and others, accepted the arrangement in January, and its members are receiving paychecks. Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians has not yet accepted the offer, Adam Krauthamer, the union’s president, said, but it is in the final stages of reaching a deal that the orchestra is voting on.