The letter sent by Peter Gelb to every member of Metropolitan Opera staff was ostensibly intended to give advance warning of a lockout that will ensue if their unions do not agree to Gelb’s cuts by the end of next week.
Its real purpose was to make ordinary people think about the personal cost of a lockout to themselves and their families, to drive a wedge of anxiety between individual workers and their union negotiators.
Fear is the oldest tactic in the HR book and Gelb is wielding it because he has nothing else up his sleeve.
The one person who has not considered the personal cost of a lockout is Peter Gelb. With the board rock-solid behind him, he is confident that a lockout will eventually deliver the savings he requires.
He is almost certainly wrong. The 1980 Met lockout ended after six weeks in a management capitulation. The Minnesota Orchestra lockout ended with the dismissal of its manager, Michael Henson, who had enjoyed full board support for more than a whole confrontational year. A lockout would be the worst thing that can possibly happen to Peter Gelb.
Only the unions can now save him from that disaster.