Denver, Colo., April 13, 2023 – Central City Opera (CCO) remains engaged in negotiations with American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) in good faith toward a new collective bargaining agreement. These negotiations have been ongoing for the last five months. CCO maintains professional decorum and respect for the collective bargaining process in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act. Within the last 10 months, CCO has already reached ongoing agreements in good faith with two other unions, and CCO’s Board of Directors affirms its confidence in administrative and artistic leadership as the team prepares for the 2023 Summer Festival while continuing to negotiate in good faith with AGMA.
As the Summer Festival approaches, CCO leadership is in constant communication with all creative staff, including performing artists, musical leadership, operations teams, and stage directors to advance the season as planned. The team is clearly excited about the season and the incredible caliber of talent Central City Opera’s artists will bring to the stage. As a company that has helped set the blueprint for nurturing young artists throughout its 90-year history, Central City Opera remains deeply committed to developing young artists and will do everything in its power to champion this class of individuals.
At the core of some of the most inflammatory public accusations directed at CCO by AGMA are contractual details that were previously agreed to by both parties and clearly upheld by CCO. AGMA claims publicly that CCO owes money to artists using the phrase “Pay Your Artists.” There are no legal or contractual grounds for these claims regarding payments owed; CCO honors its contracts and pays its artists.
AGMA has requested that all CCO artists become AGMA members and pay AGMA’s initiation fee and dues, effectively denying CCO artists the right to choose whether or not to join AGMA. To be clear, CCO is not agreeing to take artists’ choice away. CCO has, on the other hand, acted in full support of advancing DEI initiatives and celebrates several contractual provisions that have been achieved around these complex issues in partnership with AGMA. Other aspects of AGMA’s proposals being reviewed by CCO include material alterations to standard contract terms. These changes go well beyond CCO operations to implicate precedent that could negatively impact organizations across the country.
Despite AGMA’s characterization of the negotiations as “bitter,” Central City Opera remains ready and willing to reach an agreement with AGMA, but it will not compromise the rights of any CCO artists to do so. CCO calls on AGMA now to uphold its enduring relationship with the professional decorum to be expected by a long-committed founding member organization. AGMA can do this by returning to collective bargaining sessions with the same good faith that Central City Opera has demonstrated: agree to a comparable number of CCO’s proposals or portions of proposals, come to the table with a spirit of compromise and respect, and work collaboratively with the best interest of Central City Opera’s artists in focus.
For the benefit of its artists, patrons, donors, supporters, and the broader arts and interested civic communities, CCO offers the following facts and additional detail about the organization’s position regarding negotiations with AGMA:
CCO has always paid its artists and production staff in full. All CCO artists and staff have been compensated to the letter of their contracts, and CCO pays all AGMA-represented artists at competitive rates that are nationally established by AGMA.
The exchange of verifiable information is a critical part of the good faith bargaining process under the National Labor Relations Act. After CCO negotiation committee members asked questions about supporting data behind a graph provided by AGMA in advance of the April 6 bargaining session, AGMA stated that understanding their position was “unproductive,” and refused to discuss further.
It should be recognized that CCO has reached ongoing agreements in good faith with two other unions within the last ten months. This demonstrates CCO’s commitment and further suggests that AGMA’s defensive approach is the true impediment to reaching an agreement on the terms of a collective bargaining agreement for the benefit of CCO artists.
AGMA demanded arbitration proceedings without including their repeated accusation that CCO owes $12,000 in back pay to artists—“Pay Your Artists.” This is a distraction tactic: CCO has paid all artists according to AGMA contract. The exclusion of this claim from arbitration demonstrates purposeful deception and misconstrued fact on behalf of AGMA.
In its arbitration demands, AGMA is attempting to expand its representation to its artists who are currently not subject to its membership rules and who have never before been required to pay AGMA initiation fees or dues – while refusing in bargaining to waive initiation fees of at least $1,000.00 for these artists.
The arbitrator assigned to one of AGMA’s demands has issued a decision that it can be arbitrated, but he will not make any determinations without a full evidentiary hearing. A full evidentiary hearing will include witness testimony demonstrating decades of past precedent supporting Central City Opera’s position in these matters.
The National Labor Relations Act and Colorado law protect artists’ right to choose whether they wish to be represented by AGMA. By law, neither AGMA nor CCO have the right to make this choice for Central City Opera’s artists. Thus, Central City Opera could not agree to a package proposal that AGMA presented requiring all Central City Opera artists to join AGMA and pay initiation fees and dues.
Central City Opera has been working diligently in good faith through the negotiations process to reach an agreement with AGMA and has agreed to at least 15 of AGMA’s proposals or portions of their proposals.