Solidarity – not Vivaldi or Mozart – was in the air as members of IATSE locals across the eastern region gathered outside Lincoln Center in New York City to protest proposed pay cuts to crew members of the Metropolitan Opera.
Several Local 600 members joined the hundreds of union protestors at last Thursday’s “We Are the Met” rally, organized by IATSE Local 1. Even as the Met plans the staging of two upcoming productions after more than a year of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, locked-out IATSE stagehands, musicians and front-of-house staff insist that the show cannot go on without their work.
“We sell the tickets. We hang the lights. We design and build and paint the sets. We do the hair and makeup,” said IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb. “We design and make the costumes. We dress the performers. We record the events for broadcast. We are the Met.”
After negotiations stalled between Local 1 and the Met on a new contract in December, the Met locked out its stagehands. Now, the company is threatening to significantly reduce the salaries of its union employees. In addition, it has outsourced the construction of sets for two upcoming productions to a nonunion scene shop in California.
Attendees at the rally included workers from across the artistic disciplines, including makeup and costume artists, hairstylists, ticket sellers, musicians and set builders. Many of them wore T-shirts or carried signs that read “We Dress the Met” or “We Paint the Met.” Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted “We are the Met.”
“It truly felt good to be at a union action again and to feel the solidarity from all of our kin for those who work at the Met,” said 2nd Assistant Brent Weichsel, co-chair of the Local 600 Eastern Region Young Workers, who attended the rally. “I saw a lot of people who clearly were seeing people they hadn’t seen in over a year, and the atmosphere was one of both joy but also of purpose.”