On May 13, the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 817, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, and IATSE rallied against the Metropolitan Opera at the “We are the Met” rally in front of Lincoln Center.
The rally was organized in protest to the Metropolitan Opera’s lockout of its stagehands and the fact that Met shipped its work out to non-union workers. James J. Claffey Jr, president of IATSE Local One led the rally which saw stagehands, makeup artists, Screen Actors Guild members, Orchestra members, and chorus members, among others chanting “We are the Met.” They also held signs that said “Peter Gelb, Stop Union Busting, “We Dress the Met,” and “Stop Blaming Workers.”
Claffey Jr. condemned General Manager Peter Gelb, threatening that if he wasn’t willing to negotiate, the workers would strike.
Also in attendance was Linda Rosenthal, a Member of the New York State Assembly, who compared the Metropolitan Opera to other regional houses that have been paying their workers since the onset of the pandemic.
“Opera Houses of lesser stature and revenue have managed to pay their workers since the onset of the pandemic and agreed to limit labor concessions rather than make them permanent,” said, Rosenthal.
She added, “Lincoln Center, the center of the world for many people in the arts, is not that going to be there anymore if Peter Gelb and the board don’t come to the table to bargain fair and square.”
Local 802 President Adam Krauthamer noted it was the first time in 14 months that the union workers had been together since the beginning of the pandemic. He also had forceful words for Gelb stating, “The only person who denies the arts are coming back and reopening is Peter Gelb. If you go back 14 months, there is one thing that has to be called out that’s different here at the Met in Lincoln Center than anywhere else. They saw this pandemic as an opportunity. They saw it not as an opportunity to help their workers, they didn’t see it as an opportunity to figure out how to continue to produce art, which is their mission. They saw it as an opportunity to take something from their workers.”
He added, “the thing Peter Gelb doesn’t understand is, he is not the Met.” Krauthamer elicited chants “We are the Met and even got some in the crowd to boo Peter Gelb.
Matthew D. Loeb, International President of the IATSE added, “We will use all the tools at our disposal to fight this fight. We are not going to cower. We don’t succumb to the shameless attacks. We fight back.” He added that the ralliers are the Met and that the Lincoln Center building is simply a “Building.”
Loeb also made the point that Peter Gelb and the board “are not the Met.”
The rally also saw state senator Brad Hoylman send a message to Gelb stating, “Could you leave the drama on the stage, please? We don’t need the drama. We don’t need you to make the Metropolitan Opera into the Metropolitan Soap Opera.”
In December the Metropolitan Opera locked out its stagehands when it was unable to come to an agreement with Local One when contracts were expired. Workers have not been paid since March 31, 2020.
The Metropolitan Opera is currently negotiating with its Chorus and Orchestra as well and is set to return to the stage on May 16 for a concert in Queens featuring Angel Blue and Eric Owens.