Dallas Opera Negotiations Continue Through the Fall
Musicians of The Dallas Opera Orchestra have 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 this extension, a guarantee of 12 weeks of salary (reduced from the previous guarantee of 18 weeks) was negotiated for the 2020-21 season. In January 2020 the planned season of opera performances was canceled due to the surge of COVID-19 infection then going on, making the guarantee of weeks wages all the more important. Some concert performances took place in late spring along with some outdoor chamber concerts at various locations.
As negotiations began again in May, Management proposed to once again extend the contract with, for the most part, a repeat of the provisions which had been in effect during the Pandemic, most notably with a similar guarantee of weeks of employment. The guarantee of employment for the musicians was clearly planned to support a largely scaled back season from what had been the norm for the company pre-pandemic. As the other major performing DFW performing arts organizations were making plans to re-open with fuller audiences and complete seasons, the opera 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 have made clear their priority of seeing a return of the kind of opera season to which audiences had been accustomed. At present, The Dallas Opera’s mainstage productions will begin in February 2022, nearly two years since a full opera had been produced by the company. The season consists of four productions (down from five pre-pandemic), and fewer performances per production are scheduled. There were four weeks of employment for the orchestra musicians during the fall, which included concert performances to socially distanced audiences, the company’s national vocal competition and the Hart Institute for Women Conductors. The Orchestra Musicians have continued to negotiate while working these weeks, and are working to address the orchestra’s concerns about the season employment guarantee and working conditions moving forward.
On September 9, 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 which had been negotiated and 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.