NEW LEADERS. NEW DIRECTION.
MFC Negotiation Series - Part 2
A Letter from Javier Gándara,
Veteran of the Metropolitan Opera Negotiating Committee
Dear Fellow Musicians,
As a Met Orchestra member, I have been on our Negotiating Committee for three separate contracts with three different Presidents of Local 802. This experience has given me certain perspectives on the negotiating process that I would like to share.
It is important for musicians to understand the role of each participant in contract negotiations. The President of Local 802 is not -- and should not be -- the primary negotiator for all of our collective bargaining agreements. In fact, it is the labor lawyer (hired by 802 or by the bargaining group) who brings negotiation expertise to the table. Labor lawyers are professional negotiators. Management hires one, and so do we.
The role of the Negotiating Committee, in my experience, is to inform the lawyer of the orchestra’s priorities and, together with Local 802, create a strategy to achieve these goals. This step is extremely important, as the committee directly represents the musicians and must prioritize grievances and demands on behalf of its entire unit.
Facilitating this communication is the role of the President of 802, who must listen and understand the needs of the players and inform the musicians and their lawyer of the ways in which the union will support the process and the musicians in the event of a work stoppage. The President is also the provider of an overall broader context, as he or she represents all the different groups within the Local.
As I have worked closely with three Local 802 Presidents on contract negotiations over the years, I am able to assess the relative capabilities of the current 802 President, Tino Gagliardi. I have never doubted Mr. Gagliardi’s best intentions, but unfortunately, he lacks the most essential communication skill: listening. Our negotiation process with Tino Gagliardi was hampered by basic misunderstandings that we had to stop and address. This made an already difficult process even harder.
When we negotiate contracts, we need to know that our 802 President is hearing what we are saying. To me, Adam Krauthamer possesses not only the best communication abilities I have seen in a fellow musician, but also the curiosity, patience, and intellect to get to the bottom of complex issues -- and the humility that allows him to ask for help when he needs it.
Javier Gàndara was a member of the negotiating committee at the Metropolitan Opera for two contract cycles and the landmark media agreement. He is running on the MFC slate for Trial Board.