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Stagehands’ union brings ‘Save the Met’ protest to Utah

First Published      Last Updated Jul 16 2014 04:51 pm

If you go to the movies tonight at the Century Cinemas 16 in South Salt Lake City, you might find yourself in the middle of a New York labor dispute.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE, or "the stagehands' union") is mounting protests outside movie theaters in 13 cities — including the Century 16 — to call attention to a dispute the union is having with the Metropolitan Opera (which is streaming its production of "The Enchanted Island" in theaters tonight).

The protest is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Century 16, 125 E. 3300 South, South Salt Lake City.

"The Metropolitan Opera is no longer just a New York institution," said Joseph Hartnett, the union's assistant director of stagecraft, in a statement. "People outside New York City who care about the opera need to step up and help us save the Met."

IATSE represents behind-the-scenes labor in live theater — stagehands, wardrobe artists, hair and makeup artists, scenic designers, ticket sellers and so on. The Met's contracts for six local IATSE work groups, along with those of other unions representing performers and other opera workers, are set to expire at the end of the month.

The contract talks have gotten testy, with the Met's management trying to reduce pay and benefits for unionized workers, and the unions accusing the Met of mismanagement and overpaying its executives. (The New York Times has written about the dispute.)

IATSE has started a web campaign, called Save The Met, to talk up their side of the argument. On the other hand, conservative columnist Rich Lowry takes care of the union-bashing argument.