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May 1, 2019IM -
Although Baltimore Symphony Musicians’ (BSM) leadership has had a break from the traditional collective bargaining process, they continued to advance their cause in other, less traditional ways. On March 25, a group of musicians performed at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore City as part of an event to bring attention to The Johns Hopkins Hospital nurses’ organizing campaign. More specifically, the performance raised money for RN Vivian Obijekwu, who was unjustly terminated by the hospital after she advocated for safe patient care and fair treatment on her unit. Two hundred people attended the concert and helped raise $10,000 for Obijekwu, who recently won the right to receive unemployment benefits. She has a June date for an Unfair Labor Practice hearing in connection to her dismissal.
BSM Committee Co-Chair Greg Mulligan told the audience, “Although Hopkins nurses and BSO musicians have different occupations, we share the same general concerns. Both occupations take a lot of training, dedication, and teamwork. Musicians and nurses want to be treated with respect.”
In a note to the musicians, Obijekwu wrote, “I would like to say a big thank you for everything your team did for me during the benefit concert. Words cannot express how grateful I am for all your help and support!” Baltimore Symphony Musicians support for the National Nurses Organizing Committee is an important demonstration of the power of music and the value of networking and working together to help our sisters and brothers in labor. In other words, if you want a friend, be a friend. For the past few months, the BSM negotiating committee received a lot of extra help and advice, and with the assistance of the company Phone2Action, built a fan base that sent more than 33,000 emails to Maryland’s state senators and delegates in support of House Bill 1404. The John C. Merrill Act, named in honor of a recently deceased former member of the orchestra, allocates a total of $3.2 million in additional state funding to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in FY 2020 and 2021.
Per the legislation, three members of the negotiating committee will serve on a workgroup, along with members of the board and management. The workgroup will report back to the legislators in the fall. Although the initial push for the bill came from the musicians, BSO leadership joined with the musicians in lobbying tirelessly for the bill’s passage. As of this writing, all parties await the governor’s signature on the bill, while working to identify candidates for the chair position of the workgroup.
Lastly, although the draconian October 30 management proposal that includes a cut of 12 weeks has not been withdrawn, and in spite of the fact that the musicians have been working without a contract since mid-January, the BSM have worked with management to craft a summer season for which the musicians will continue to be employed and paid. The summer will include the BSO’s popular Academy program, celebrating its 10th anniversary in July.
The negotiating committee anticipates getting back to the bargaining table once the state funding bill has been signed into law by the governor in either late April or May. Baltimore Symphony Musicians are represented by Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD).