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AGMA Warns Its Lyric Opera Members of a Possible Strike

The American Guild of Musical Artists, the union that represents the performing and production staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago, told its members on Aug. 11 that the upcoming fall season was "in peril" and that they may strike on opening night. AGMA also advised members to be "prepared to picket" a free Millennium Park concert, which is scheduled for Sept. 10.

According to AGMA, over the last few weeks, the union and Lyric's management have been in contract negotiations. While Lyric proposes a two-week reduction in work, severe wage cuts, and decreases in benefits, AGMA seeks increased health and safety protections and a one-year contract to basically maintain the status quo until the company's new general director, Anthony Freud, assumes his position in October. Freud has not yet participated in any direct negotiations with the guild.

AGMA said that it alerted its members to be ready to strike because Lyric board chairman Kenneth Pigott has threatened to lock out workers on Aug. 22.

The union said in an email notice to its members: "Regrettably, if Lyric decides to proceed with its announced plan to lock out performers, Lyric is going to lose the Millennium Park concert, and possibly its fall season. You need to prepare for that possibility and be prepared to close down Lyric. You will be expected to picket and to resist every encroachment upon your hard-won contractual protections."

AGMA's national executive director, Alan Gordon, said in a written statement: "We don't do well with threats to the livelihood of our members. While we will continue to bargain in good faith with Lyric, a lockout is the equivalent of a declaration of economic war, and if Lyric wants to declare war on its performers, we intend to protect our members using every available means."

AGMA represents the performers and production staff of New York City Opera, which has also experienced tense negotiations with the union amid financial difficulties.

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