AGMA Response On CIty Opera

NY City Opera: Now, AGMA Speaks

On Tuesday, George Steel gave his "season" announcement – and, while he was at it, fired shots at his critics and at the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA).

Now, it's AGMA's turn:

Subject: WORK FOR NYCO PROHIBITED
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 12:43:01 -0400 (EDT)

AGMA, AFL-CIO
1430 Broadway
New York City 10018
AGMANY@AOL.COM

Dear Members:

Yesterday, George Steel announced that you would be performing for NYCO in its next season, assuming that NYCO continues to exist. The AGMA Constitution, which AGMA will aggressively enforce in court, prohibits you from performing for City Opera in the event of a Guild picket line is in effect.

As you may be aware, the collective bargaining agreement between AGMA and New York City Opera expired in April. George Steel has, for all intents and purposes, proposed to eliminate all guaranteed employment for AGMA members, to cancel their health insurance, to eliminate the requirement for AGMA membership, to hire student and volunteer singers and to unilaterally extend the work day of principal artists, without any limitation. Although we are finally about to become engaged in negotiations for a successor agreement, given the proposals made by George Steel, it is unlikely in the extreme that a successor agreement will be successfully concluded quickly.

In any event, under federal labor law, the provisions of that expired contract must continue to be honored by NYCO until a successor agreement or an impasse is reached. One of the continuing provisions requires that AGMA receive a copy of, and consent to, any individual employment pursuant to a Standard Artists Agreement. We have not received a copy of any agreement purporting to cover your employment. Without regard to City Opera’s failure to tender a copy of that letter, AGMA is not prepared to approve any such contracts unless a current collective bargaining is in effect between AGMA and City Opera at the time of the performance.

If AGMA and City Opera fail to successfully conclude a collective bargaining agreement prior to the start of your contracted employment, AGMA will not sanction your performance of any services for City Opera.

Moreover, in the event that an impasse occurs in the negotiations, and an AGMA picket line exists at any venue in which City Opera is performing, the AGMA Constitution prohibits you from crossing that picket line.

While I am sure that you and your agent may find this advice distressing, I can not fail to remind you that our obligation is to preserve, to the extent possible, the protections of the collective bargaining agreement for the men and women who have given their careers to City Opera and who would, if George Steel succeeds in presenting non-union productions, be cast out on the street, unable to provide for their support and the welfare of their families.

We are certain that we can count on your support. Inasmuch as AGMA is obligated to do everything possible, in the event of a strike, to prevent George Steel from effectuating his destruction of City Opera, I also need to advise you that AGMA will impose fines on any member who crosses an AGMA picket line and will sue to collect those fines in the appropriate federal or state court.

We sincerely hope that these actions will not become necessary.

Cordially,

Alan S. Gordon

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