A Curious Start To The Met Negotiations

Given the mountain of negative publicity surrounding contentious labor negotiations at nonprofit performing arts organizations, it would seem that effort to avoid conflict within a broader volatile environment would be paramount for all parities. Nonetheless, The Metropolitan Opera (The MET) negotiations with three of its larger labor unions (orchestra musicians, singers, and stage crew) seems to be pursuing a different course.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-037The New York Times published an article on 4/7/2014 by Michael Cooper that presents a number of employer-centric initial talking points along with excerpts from heated email exchanges between The MET’s general manager and the president of the American Guild of Musical Artists and management (the union representing singers).

Given the degree of animosity presented in those exchanges, it appears as though stepping back from the precipice of a debilitating and ugly public labor dispute is an increasingly unlikely prospect.

At the same time, there have been instances of institutions which have done exactly that such as the Nashville Symphony. For the time being, let’s hope The Met opts for that road less traveled.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “A Curious Start To The Met Negotiations”

  1. Drew, you seem to be implying that blame for the animosity should be shared equally, but – at least, based on the evidence presented in the NY Times article we’re talking about here – I don’t think that’s true.

    One may or may not take Peter Gelb’s side in the issues around negotiations, but the only actual hostility he displayed (in this article) was in response to an email from Alan Gordon containing a barely-veiled threat. Gordon’s message looked very inappropriate to these eyes, and it’s hard to blame Gelb for telling him he should reconsider it.

    It looks to me as if the hostility so far is all coming from Gordon. (Again, this is based on the NYT’s reporting; if you know Gelb to have said or written equally hostile things to Gordon or AGMA that didn’t get into the Times, share it with us.)

    I remember that Gordon behaved similarly in the lead-up to NY City Opera’s collapse. Fighting for the best interests of his union members is fine – it’s his job – but he seems given to an antagonistic tone that’s unlikely to motivate anyone to cooperate with him.)

    (I don’t suppose he’s from Philadelphia, is he?)

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