July 25, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—With one week to go before labor contracts with the Metropolitan Opera expire, cleaners, ushers and ticket takers protested outside the Met on Thursday evening management’s threat of a lockout should negotiations falter.
It was reported by Crain’s on Wednesday that the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, issued a warning that there would be a lock-out by next week if the Met and the unions couldn’t reach a new settlement.
Cleaners, ushers and ticket takers represented by 32BJ SEIU, the property services union, objected to the threat and said a lockout would be devastating.
Shirley Aldebol, 32BJ’s Vice President, told LaborPress in the accompanying video interview that the Met’s contract proposal to cut workers’ health care benefits is draconian.
“To say that you have to pay thousands of dollars to be able to get health care, that to me is unacceptable. People should be outraged at that,” said Aldebol.
According to the union, the Met’s contract proposal would mean that 32BJ members could pay as much as $6,000 a year for health coverage (for a single person) and as much as $12,000 for members with families.
Avo Asencio has worked at the Met for 23 years and said it’s been a great place to work, at least until the latest contract proposal by the Met.
“When you are asking me for pension cuts after 23 years of service, [that] the promise you gave me isn’t not going to be what I thought it would be, it makes you want to hit somebody in the stomach,” said Asencio.
According to Asencio, the Met wants to cut pension contributions by 20 percent.
“One of the reasons why I worked here for so long is because I wanted to get as much of a pension that I feel I deserve and that I worked hard to get,” Asencio said.