Today Is the Last Day Of The Met As You Know It

It is deadline day for the Metropolitan Opera (Met) and if the organization and its union employees fail to reach an accord by midnight, it is expected that the employer will initiate a lock out. Over the past few days, union employees have been removing personal equipment and any other personal belongings they don’t want to go without for an extended period of time the HR department is almost certainly buzzing with last minute questions and tasks related to the since the severing health benefits, payroll, and the host of other odds and ends that would otherwise wait a day or two.

Adaptistration Guy Out The DoorAll things being equal, there is the potential that one of the myriad of stakeholders simply wants to toy with brinkmanship and may cave after the first weekend but don’t get your hopes up. Similarly, don’t expect the recent news about introducing Federal mediators to trigger any flood of progress; instead, it is looking more like the work stoppage will be another knock-down, drag-out affair.

Fighting Fire With Fire

Sure, fighting fire with fire is a great sound bite but in practical application you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight it with water. If you haven’t caught it already, The New York Times published an article on 7/29/2014 by Michael Cooper that takes a step back to add some perspective to the rhetoric and recounts how difficult it was for the Met’s ticket sales to bounce back from their last work stoppage in 1980. When taking into consideration the Met’s current earned income shortfalls, a work stoppage without at least some effort to play and talk carries greater potential to exacerbate what the Met has defined as a crucial problem.

Cooper’s article also includes a gentle reminder about the human side to this ugliness by way of pointing out the individuals amid trying moments in life such as expecting mothers and those who are sick, injured, or otherwise engaged in some sort of necessary and ongoing treatment.

Dissolving health benefits for those individuals, again without even an attempt to play and talk, risks inflicting real mental, physical, and financial damage on individuals who likely have no substantial influence over the course of the bargaining for no other reason than maximizing leverage.

In the end, there are no winners if it means someone else has to lose but by this time tomorrow, it’s quite likely that’s precisely where the Met’s stakeholders will find themselves.

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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4 thoughts on “Today Is the Last Day Of The Met As You Know It”

  1. I realize that these situations are complicated and that neither side is completely in the right, but it is frustrating to see the same pattern repeated over and over again throughout the US, and not just in the arts, but in every sector. Employers appear to be trying to capitalize on a weak economy and the scarcity of jobs to squeeze more out of their employees than they would normally be able to do.

    I know that management faces real budget problems with declining revenues, but a heavy-handed “take it or leave it” approach seems self-destructive. I’m sure that the unions could be more flexible, too, but it is unlikely that the threat of a lock out is going to encourage union negotiators to agree to a settlement. Nobody likes to bargain when a gun is being held to their head.

    I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to see the same sort of escalation and refusal to compromise that has caused gridlock and shutdowns in our federal government appearing in the private sector. Spirited debate and disagreement are healthy, but the political tone in our country has become so hostile and corrosive that people representing different interests tend to demonize their opponents, and instead of seeking a middle ground, they adopt a scorched-earth policy.

  2. This causes me so much anxiety. One of my dearest friends is a Met Chorister who is facing the “mental, physical, and financial damage” stated here. It’s hard to believe things have spiraled this far out of control and I am praying for a swift and equitable resolution. “Save the Met!”

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