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Not Over Till Overtime's Due? Met Labor Strife Bares Secrets
July 8, 2014 11:31 AM

Wow. This article truly does lay bare how much Metropolitan Opera Singers make, both in salary and in pension:

The rules that workers cherish, but management chafes at, dictate life backstage. They require extra pay when the chorus works more than seven and a half hours over the course of a day, or sings in operas that last more than four hours, or has afternoon rehearsals that run into the break period -- called "the gap" -- that chorus members are supposed to get to rest their voices before evening performances. Such rules are a major reason that chorus members, whose base pay is around $100,000 a year, earned an average of $200,000 during the 2012-13 season.

Singers described that season as an outlier, saying that their pay was inflated by the unusual number of long, chorus-heavy operas that management scheduled -- requiring extra rehearsal pay and performance overtime.

Still...we're talking about base salaries for members of the chorus of at least $100,000. When you dive into the remuneration of the orchestra members, it's even more impressive:

A similar debate is playing out in the Met's vaunted orchestra, where the average take-home pay was $202,000 in the 2012-13 season -- the union prefers to cite its median pay, which is around $191,000 -- and management is seeking to change other work rules. The orchestra said that while its base pay was marginally higher than that at major symphony orchestras, its musicians work more days a week and play operas that are regularly twice as long as symphonic concerts.

Jazz musicians in New York City can only dream about making this kind of money. $200,000 salary to make music all day long? Wow!

Their benefit system is also pretty dang cushy:

The Met spends more on its workers' health care than most employers do -- the company, which essentially self-insures, spends around $27,900 a year for family coverage. It wants to begin charging workers, who currently have no deductibles if they stay in network, a $4,000 deductible for family coverage, and more for out-of-network coverage.

So...the Met spends about $2,325/month for family health care. $2,300!! ...double wow.

The triple wow effect comes when looking at their pension benefits:

Right now, the average chorus member has 12 years of seniority, which would already entitle such an employee to a pension worth nearly $33,000 a year upon reaching retirement age. Under the current system, if that employee worked another 18 years the employee would qualify for a maximum benefit averaging $81,840 a year. Under the Met's proposal, the maximum would be $54,560 a year. A couple of senior chorus members have already earned the maximum, and more have earned pensions greater than the proposed new maximum, and they would all keep the benefits that they have earned. But younger singers would find themselves having to work for more years to earn a smaller benefit.

Now, no one is asking these amazing musicians and singers to not demand these numbers; they are worth it. But man, who knew there was this much money involved? With an annual budget of over $300 million, it shouldn't be a surprise. But why is the opera ecosystem so generously compensated while dancers, poets, and jazz musicians toil in poverty and obscurity?

It just shows in stark relief where all the money is going.


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