Dallas Opera Musicians Ratify Three Year Agreement
On January 10, the Musicians of the Dallas Opera Orchestra ratified a three-year successor agreement which runs from July 2021through June 2024. By the third year of the agreement the weekly employment guarantee will be restored to the pre-pandemic level of 17 weeks (plus one week of paid vacation), with a 5.5% cumulative wage increase by that season.
Opera and Musical Theater companies were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic, as the complex logistics of theater created immense challenges for the realities of this type of live performance under pandemic restrictions. In fact, The Dallas Opera had canceled its mainstage productions beginning at the onset of the Pandemic and continuing through February 2022 – a period of over two years with no full opera productions.
As a result of these difficult circumstances, the musicians of The Dallas Opera Orchestra had been in negotiations for a successor agreement since May of 2021 upon completing a short series of services worked under an extension of the previous Master Agreement in which a guarantee of 12 weeks of salary (reduced from the previous guarantee of 18 weeks) had been negotiated.
As negotiations began again in May 2021, Management was planning a reduced opera season into the future with a continued shortened period of yearly employment for its musicians, but the opera orchestra musicians were not willing to move forward with no significant commitment to a return to regular operations while emerging from the shutdown of the Pandemic.
As negotiations continued through the summer and fall months, the musicians made clear their priority of seeing a return of the kind of opera season to which their audiences had been accustomed. After more than six months of talks, the union negotiated a raise in the weekly minimum to 14 weeks in the 2021-22 season, 16 weeks in the 2022-23 season and 17 weeks in the 2023-24 season (pre-pandemic level). The final year’s guarantee was contingent on ticket sales reaching an agreed upon level in the company’s opening production of Madame Butterfly (February 2022). Despite a severe winter storm affecting the production, ticket sales were robust enough to ensure the 17 week guarantee, boding well for the future.
In addition to restoring the season and providing wage increases each year, the musicians compensation will include a electronic media guarantee to pay for the company’s media uses, providing content for TDO’s new streaming app: thedallasopera.TV.
Other provisions bargained were various scheduling flexibilities in the way Management can configure the Musicians weeks of employment, such as the ability to assign ancillary services (chamber music, etc) in certain circumstances. Other new provision, include new audition rules and a relaxed dress code for men in the orchestra pit.
Last year, the musicians ratified an addition to the Opera’s Safety Policy, mandating vaccinations for all musicians. The orchestra continues to work under modified COVID-19 safety protocols, and extension of these policies has been ratified by the musicians.
The negotiation team consists of orchestra members Jeff Baker, Rick Bogard, Donna Hall, Eric Forman & Katie Wolber, working with Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams and Counsel David Watsky.