American Opera Musical Theatre Company Loses NLRB Appeal, Ordered to Bargain

Volume CI, No. 3March, 2001

On Jan. 8, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. upheld a decision by its regional office ordering the American Opera Musical Theatre Company to negotiate with Local 802.

The board ordered the employer, Diana Corto, to write letters to each musician she has employed since Dec. 10, 1998, telling them that she violated the National Labor Relations Act. The text of the letter, prepared by the board, notifies musicians that the company “will not refuse to bargain” with Local 802, will not “interfere with, restrain, or coerce our employees in the exercise of their rights,” and will negotiate with the union and put into writing any agreement reached. Corto is also required to post this notice in her own home office.

In 1998, the company abruptly canceled performances of La Boheme at Staten Island College. Musicians called Local 802, and the New Organizing Department eventually brokered a settlement with Corto, who recognized the union and promised to negotiate for a collective bargaining agreement.

However, the company later tried to withdraw recognition and produce two performances at Town Hall, hiring students and musicians not on the original primary hiring list, some for as little as $40 a service. When they found out they were being used as replacements, many musicians walked off the job in disgust, leaving Corto with only a pianist for the performance.

Last March the NLRB’s Region 2 found that the company had committed an unfair labor practice by withdrawing recognition and failing to bargain in good faith. Corto appealed soon after.