AGMA’s Message to Membership Regarding the Met’s Announcement

Published September 23, 2020   |  By Musical Artists  |  Post in All Areas

The following message was sent to AGMA Artists of the Met at 12:30 p.m. EDT on September 23. AGMA is now sharing the message on its website.

You are receiving this email because you’ve worked at the Metropolitan Opera in the past two seasons. We are reaching out because of the Met's announcement of the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020-2021 season. The Met's unilateral decision to cancel is another difficult note in an already challenging year. AGMA is disappointed that the Met has peremptorily announced this cancellation, rather than engaging with its Artists or AGMA to find creative paths to create opera this spring. We feel it is necessary in this moment to update you on the status of our ongoing talks with the Met and to prepare you for the coming weeks and months.

Your AGMA delegates and negotiating committee have been working hard with AGMA staff and outside counsel over the past weeks and months. We have had an initial meeting with Met management to discuss options for both this season and for our upcoming 2021 negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

These conversations have not been fruitful. The Met, undoubtedly facing similar challenges to our other signatories due to COVID-19, seems uniquely determined to leverage this moment to gut our contract with permanent cuts to compensation and benefits; cuts that would make it impossible for our members to support themselves and their families; cuts that just so happen to mirror the identical concessions they sought and failed to achieve in 2018.

While AGMA has, at other signatory companies, been willing to agree to short-term cost-saving measures to help our companies weather the COVID-19 crisis, the Met has expressed no interest in temporary measures, remaining laser-focused on permanently unmaking not just our contract, but the contracts of its other unionized workers as well. The Met has conditioned future aid to our members on us accepting these cuts, and has repeatedly threatened to cancel health insurance for our qualifying members, despite promising in March to continue coverage for the duration of the closure.

The Met has done next to nothing to try to get its unionized Artists back to work. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Met has confined itself to streaming previously recorded HD productions to solicit donations and producing a series of small, non-union video productions. This is distressing and unacceptable. The Metropolitan Opera, because of its unique stature in opera, classical music, and American art and culture, owes more to its Artists and the Arts.

Met management is focused on reducing labor costs, neither realizing nor recognizing that you, the Artists, are the Met, and that Met does not exist without you. Throughout this crisis, Met management has talked at length about the challenges facing the Met while barely sparing a word for the challenges facing its Artists.

Let us be perfectly clear: the Met’s financial problems, before and after COVID-19, are not because of AGMA or the Met’s other unionized workers. We remain ready to work with the Met in partnership to help it steer out of the COVID-19 crisis, but we will not allow our Artists, who have built the Met over generations, to be scapegoated for decisions made at the highest levels of Met management. AGMA Artists have done their job at the Met for generations: putting some of the finest opera in the world on stage, night after night, year after year. It’s time for Met management to live up to their end of the bargain.

In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with Met management to hold them to the contractual commitment they made in March to pay health insurance for qualifying employees through the closure period and to push the Met to take concrete steps to lessen the impact of this closure on all AGMA members who were counting on this Met season for employment. We remain hopeful that the Met will recognize its obligations to its Artists and that we will be able to work together to chart a common course through this crisis.

We call on the Met to innovate and, just like other large and small arts organizations across the country have done, find ways to get our members back to work, even if they can't physically be on the Met stage. We call on the Met to recognize the contributions of its Artists and to not seek to solve its financial problems on their backs. We call on the Met to work with us, and its other unions, rather than against us, as we all want to Met to be strong and viable for decades to come.

This is a difficult day, and there are certain to be more difficult days ahead. We will make our way out of this crisis, but we must do it together. We ask you all to stand with your union brothers and sisters and comrades in the coming weeks and months. As always, please reach out to Ned Hanlon or Sam Wheeler with questions and concerns. And please keep an eye out for future communications—we will need everyone’s efforts and talents soon.

In Solidarity,

Ned Hanlon, Met AGMA Committee Chair
Ray Menard, AGMA President
Len Egert, AGMA National Executive Director
Sam Wheeler, AGMA Eastern Counsel