Central City Opera Update: “Agreement on main issues”

Negotiations with AGMA under mediation as season approaches

By Peter Alexander May 12 at 5:45 p.m.

Negotiations between Central City Opera (CCO) and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) that started in November of last year appear to have achieved a breakthrough.

Central City Opera House. Photo by Ashraf Sewailam.

In response to the latest 14-hour negotiating session, held Thursday (May 11) and into the morning hours today, AGMA issued a public statement: ”We are pleased to report that we are in agreement with CCO on the main issues that had served as an impediment to an agreement. AGMA and CCO are meeting with federal mediators again on Monday, May 15, and anticipate finalizing contract language for a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) at that time.”

Unlike arbitration, federal mediation is not binding. It is a way to bring a neutral third party to the table who can provide perspective and address the interests of both sides.

This latest development would seem to make moot the accusations that have been exchanged between CCO and AGMA. As such, it would seem to clear the way for the summer season to proceed as planned. Ken Cazan, a stage director with a long association with CCO who is scheduled to direct a production this summer, writes by email that “There is great hope that the season will now move forward.”

This comes only six weeks before the scheduled opening of the summer festival on June 24, and only days before rehearsals are scheduled to start on the summer productions. The opening night is slated for a performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. The summer’s other productions will open July 1 (Cole Porter’s Kiss me Kate) and July 15 (Rossini’s Otello). 

There appear to have been two developments this week that precipitated the sudden breaking of the logjam that had existed between CCO and AGMA since last year. First, CCO issued a statement Monday (May 8) that they “presented a complete four-year contract today to (AGMA) for signature.”

Critically, the statement also said “Should the labor union (AGMA) choose not to sign the contract . . . the two organizations will engage in federal mediation to reach resolution before the Summer Festival.” It was at that point that the negotiations could move forward with a mediator, as they did this week.

The day after CCO’s statement, AGMA did not issue a public statement, but sent a letter to all members with the news that the Board of Governors and the membership had authorized the organization’s executive director to call a strike. As noted in the letter, this does not mean that a strike has actually been called, merely that it is a step that AGMA is prepared to take. Other steps preceding a potential strike were also taken at this time. The letter also clarified some of the issues regarding the contract proposal from CCO—issues that appear to no longer be pertinent with the latest progress in negotiations.

Dates of the planned 2023 summer season, and access to ticket purchases can be found on the Central City Opera Web page.

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