IATSE and Lyric Opera of Chicago Agree to Labor Cuts

IATSE and Lyric Opera of Chicago Agree to Labor Cuts

By Jason Epperson

Lyric Opera of Chicago and representatives of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced today that Stagehands Local 2, Wardrobe Local 769, Hair and Make-Up Local 476 and Treasurers and Ticket Sellers Local 750 have entered into new multi-year labor agreements with the Opera.

Agreement details vary, but the locals have all agreed to reduced crew sizes and to fewer guaranteed opera season weeks, allowing Lyric more flexibility in their season schedule. Non-opera programming uses smaller crews than full-scale operas, according to Thomas Pusateri, Business Manager of Wardrobe Local 769. “While this agreement reduces weeks in the opera season, Lyric has added dance performances and musicals that give our members new opportunities. We don’t use as many people on musicals or dance, but we need to be good team players,” he said.

The joint statement sounded some dire notes of challenging times for the Opera, but a spirit of cooperation to adapt for its future. Mark Hogan, Local 476 Business Manager representing Hair and Make-Up Artists said that the locals have “allowed smaller crew sizes and fewer weekly guarantees to ensure Lyric remains viable. We’d rather have part of something than all of nothing.”

Anthony Freud, General Director of Lyric Opera stated that the company is “recognizing the challenges of a rapidly changing and unpredictable business environment,” requiring adaptation. “We appreciate our IATSE family’s commitment to excellence, hard work and spirit of cooperation. We look forward to our continued collaboration as the company evolves.”

Each of these agreements was unanimously ratified by the membership of each IATSE local, with Craig Carlson, Business Manager of Local 2 stating that “opera, in general, is experiencing difficult economic times. Lyric has been a responsible employer for more than sixty years and as a good business partner, we’re obligated to help them. It’s important they maintain their standing as a world-class opera company.”

Lyric has seperately come to a new terms with the union that represents opera performers, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), that will get the organization through the 2020/21 season. The agreement is still subject to the ratification of AGMA members, so details are yet to be announced.

Earlier this year, Lyric announced a partnership with the Joffrey Ballet that will move the stalwart dance company from the Auditorium Theatre to the Lyric Opera House (formerly known as the Civic Opera House) in order to share and optimize resources.

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.