Court Rules for Local 802, Rejects Appeal by American Opera Musical Theatre Company

Volume CII, No. 9September, 2002

On June 18, Local 802 won its latest round against the American Opera Musical Theatre Company (AOMTC), a small nonprofit chamber opera company headed by Diana Corto. The dispute goes back to 1998, when the company agreed to negotiate with 802 but then reneged.

Corto has been ordered to bargain with 802 twice already. Her latest appeal – this time to the U.S. Court of Appeals – was shot down again. However, the court left a small window for the employer, stating that she was allowed to request a “unit clarification” from the National Labor Relations Board. Corto’s lawyer jumped on this opportunity and filed such a request in early July. This could potentially limit the union’s claim of recognition to the 10 or so musicians who originally performed with Corto at Staten Island College, where the dispute originated.

802’s position is that Diana Corto has proved herself to be so untrustworthy that it is probably better not to enter into an agreement with her at all. Instead, the union reserves the right to put maximum pressure on Corto whenever she performs in the union’s jurisdiction. Nonetheless, union counsel Harvey Mars is responding to the employer’s latest move in order to preserve the ability to negotiate a contract in the future, if the union should deem such a contract to be a good idea.

Readers of Allegro may remember a story that appeared in last December’s issue, in which an anonymous musician recounted being on tour with Corto – a tour that quickly became a comedy of errors. No matter what the legal outcome is, Local 802 has issued an active warning: under no circumstances should musicians accept an engagement with Diana Corto. Musicians who hear of a production by Diana Corto or the American Opera Musical Theatre Company, whether in New York or anywhere else, should contact the union immediately.