Opera Colorado staff cleared to vote on unionization

Staff at Opera Colorado will get to vote whether or not to type the collective bargaining unit they requested for earlier this yr.

The Nationwide Labor Relations Board issued a call on Friday, saying that eligible solo singers, refrain members, stage administrators, assistant stage administrators, stage managers, assistant stage managers, choreographers, solo and ensemble dancers, and performers taking part in Opera Colorado’s Artists in Residence program will be capable of forged their ballots by mail, and votes will likely be tallied Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

Adam Da Ros, who labored as an assistant stage director on Opera Colorado productions in 2022 and 2023, stated he was “positively elated” to obtain information of the NLRB choice.

“It was a superb feeling as a result of we imagine very strongly in our place,” stated Da Ros, who additionally testified in June in a NLRB listening to in regards to the union petition. “To see that backed up and solidified on this approach, it was a superb feeling.” 

The American Guild of Musical Artists, the U.S. labor union that represents dance, opera and choral staff, introduced in Could that Opera Colorado artists had signed their playing cards to unionize. As a result of Opera Colorado didn’t voluntarily acknowledge the employees’ need to affix AGMA, the union filed a petition for an election with the NLRB in early June.

Staff earlier this yr stated they had been keen on unionizing to guard what they appreciated about working at Opera Colorado, but in addition advised The Colorado Solar they needed a stronger collective voice to barter higher pay and work situations, particularly for individuals who have traditionally felt disenfranchised on the firm. Organizing on the Denver-area opera firm occurred amid ongoing labor disputes at Central Metropolis Opera.

Within the NLRB’s choice, appearing regional director Leticia Peña wrote that Opera Colorado had not met its burden in its case arguing towards unionization on the Denver opera firm, and stated  “the petitioned-for unit is an applicable unit for collective bargaining” — the exception being narrators or performers with talking components on account of opera management saying that they had not employed anybody for such a job in years.

Peña additionally stated the proposed collective bargaining unit shares a neighborhood of curiosity, “notably primarily based on the group of manufacturing, practical integration of Opera Colorado’s mainstage productions, excessive diploma of day by day contact and interchange between lots of the completely different classifications, shared supervision, and the notably sturdy proof that the petitioned-for unit is widespread on this trade.”

Opera Colorado common and creative director Greg Carpenter confirmed the corporate obtained the NLRB’s ruling late Friday night.

“We have now met with our authorized illustration and are working to satisfy deadlines which can be set forth within the ruling for an election and vote,” he stated Tuesday in an interview. “We’re abiding by the foundations and transferring ahead with the method.”

Opera Colorado argued “itinerant artists” are unbiased contractors

In post-hearing briefs obtained by The Colorado Solar by an open information request, attorneys for Opera Colorado argued that the union’s proposed bargaining unit was ineligible to type a union as a result of mixture of unbiased contractors and “informal” workers contracted for a single manufacturing at a time. 

“The performers and different people engaged for every manufacturing are basically itinerant artists and people who work for themselves and market their expertise, skills and expertise to a number of opera corporations and different performing organizations throughout the nation,” the temporary stated. 

AGMA’s attorneys countered, saying there’s precedent in opera for his or her proposed unit and these staff are integral to placing on Opera Colorado productions.

Some artists stated a sore spot from the NLRB listening to was Opera Colorado management characterizing refrain singers as volunteers. 

Greg Carpenter, left, Opera Colorado’s common and creative director, speaks with soprano Kara Shay Thomson, proper, throughout a rehearsal on Feb. 21. (Steve Peterson, Particular to The Colorado Solar)

“That is the way in which it was offered to me 20 years in the past, or 19 years in the past, once I arrived, is that the refrain was predominately the neighborhood who loved singing and loved opera,” Carpenter stated throughout the NLRB listening to. Transcripts of the listening to had been reviewed by The Solar. “Opera Colorado refrain was a artistic outlet for them.”

Opera Colorado’s authorized crew argued that union illustration would threaten to “finish neighborhood theater” by putting sure pay and work situation requirements on a refrain that administration thought-about as a volunteer corps. 

Joshua Zabatta, who has carried out in Opera Colorado’s refrain a variety of occasions, advised The Colorado Solar this summer time that refrain positions had by no means been offered to him on this approach and a variety of choristers are severe, extremely expert musicians.

Carpenter advised The Colorado Solar in a quick interview on Tuesday he was unable to supply any readability on this situation. 

The NLRB choice went largely within the union’s favor on contested points, representing “a transparent and important victory for the artists who’re in search of to unionize with AGMA,” a press release offered by the union’s spokeswoman Alicia Cook dinner.

“There’s nonetheless an amazing quantity of labor to be carried out,” the assertion continued. “Now, we now have an election to win. However this NLRB choice is worthy of celebration by itself.”

Voter eligibility within the November election will likely be decided by a system established in a NLRB case involving the famed New York Metropolis arts college Juilliard. It’s been used for instances within the leisure trade during which employment is usually on a production-by-production foundation. Artists who’ve labored in two productions for at the very least 5 days within the final yr or at the very least 15 days over the past two years will likely be eligible to vote. The discover of election have to be posted contained in the Opera Colorado Opera Heart and distributed to eligible voters by mail or e-mail by Oct. 11. Ballots are slated to exit Oct. 16.

“This is a vital demonstration from the artists of Opera Colorado,” Da Ros stated. “And I hope that artists in comparable conditions throughout the nation will actually take coronary heart in what occurred right here and be impressed.”

Editor’s Observe: Stephanie Wolf, who reported this story, was a member of AGMA whereas dancing professionally for the 2011-12 Metropolitan Opera season.