Alan Gordon replies to a letter from Peter Gelb we haven’t seen yet. La Cieca has to wonder if the Wendy White thing is really going to turn out to be an effective negotiating tactic.

From: [email protected]
Subject: To Principal Singers Appearing/Scheduled to Apper at the Met
Date: May 21, 2014 at 2:04:16 PM EDT
To: [email protected]

To Principal Singers Appearing/Scheduled to Apper at the Met:

As you know, we are involved (along with the orchestra and stagehand’s unions and their members) in very high stakes negotiations with the Met, continuing in our efforts to preserve the way of life for all of its employees despite the on-going attack by Peter Gelb, and to avoid the lock-out threatened by Gelb of all employees on and after the July 31st contract expirations.

Purely as a self-serving negotiating tactic, Peter has written a letter (drafted by his team of $1000-an-hour lawyers and his many public relations consultants) to all unionized employees in an attempt to bolster the Met’s negotiating position. His letter is not only inappropriate and constitutes illegal direct-dealing but, regrettably, continues to fraudulently misstate the effect of the Met’s proposals on its employees. In actuality, for staff employees, the proposals would result in reductions in take-home pay of between 25-30%, in addition to a 40% reduction in pensions, and a $15,000 per family increase in medical insurance expenses. His proposals to Local 802, Local 1, the Orchestra and the Stagehands are substantially similar and similarly destructive. His proposals to principal artists would, likewise, reduce rehearsal compensation, increase uncompensated rehearsal obligations, eliminate any benefits and impact singers’ ability to provide for their families.

As you also know, principal artists have absolutely no protection against career-ending injuries when they perform at the Met, even if it’s caused by the Met’s negligence. To remedy that, we’ve made extensive proposals (along with those of IATSE Local 1’s stagehands) as part of these negotiations, to make certain that all possible contractual provisions are in place to prevent such negligence in the future and, should it nonetheless occur, to make certain that your career income is protected. The Met, thus far, has refused to even respond to our safety proposals.

Given Peter’s family’s personal loss yesterday we need to postpone responding to his letter directly until a more appropriate time. Obviously, none of you should consider his letter an invitation for you to respond to him. Any principal singer with an upcoming contract for work at the Met who does respond should expect another letter from Gelb, requesting that you reduce your fees by 10, 15, or 20% . You should not even consider such a request. The Met may well have fiscal problems, but those problems can’t be solved by a sledgehammer attack on its performing artists.

Reducing your fee, reducing all the principal artists’ fees, would not make one iota of difference to the Met’s bottom line. The AGMA negotiating committee made it clear to Peter that the only way in which the union and its members would consider helping him stabilize the Met’s finances were 1) If he accepted some measure of oversight by the performers to control his astronomically increased spending and over drawing of the endowment and 2) If he agreed to reverse the waste, excess and extravagance that have thus far been the hallmark of his administration.

The Met is a public trust, and Peter Gelb has a corresponding fiduciary obligation to care for it. His $100 million dollar increased budget, a box office in free fall and his continuing attacks on your livelihoods and families are symptomatic of his failure to fulfill that obligation.

We are, of course, doing everything we can, along with the other unions to advance reasonable proposals, to preserve your income, working conditions, benefits and way of life, and to vastly improve safety at the Met so as to prevent any further career-ending Wendy White-type injuries and to resist Gelb’s senseless threat to lock-out all unionized Met employees after the July 31st contract expiration date if he can’t bully employees or con them into accepting his abhorrent proposals.

Alan Gordon
Executive Director