Minnesota Opera Orchestra members have unanimously authorized a strike, the union announced Friday.
Members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 30-73, have been working without a contract for six months. The nature of their work is changing, and that's been a sticking point in contract negotiations with the company.
In the pre-pandemic era, Minnesota Opera usually offered five full-scale productions at St. Paul's Ordway Music Theater during the course of a season. The 2022-23 season replaces two of those five with smaller-scale productions at the Luminary Arts Center in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood that will use smaller orchestras. As a result, many of the musicians have had their workloads and pay reduced by 40%, according to Rebecca Arons, a cellist in the orchestra for 25 years and a member of its negotiating committee.
Whether Minnesota Opera plans to have a similar structure for future seasons is not yet known. Arons said the company's management has been unwilling to share that information or details on company finances requested by the musicians. She said the musicians have been asking to meet with management and hope that contract negotiations will resume.
"We're disappointed at this unnecessary step by the union, as throughout these negotiations we have been responsive, transparent and accommodating to their numerous requests," Minnesota Opera said in a statement. "Furthermore, in September, both parties agreed to negotiate in good faith and operate under the terms of the previous contract until a new agreement could be reached."
A new labor agreement with the orchestra is "best accomplished at the negotiating table at upcoming mutually agreed upon sessions," the Minnesota Opera statement said.
An actual strike date hasn't yet been determined.
Minnesota Opera is set to open Gaetano Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment" next week and a strike could disrupt that production.