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Home » Recent News » No Strikes, No Lockouts? I Must Be Dreaming!

No Strikes, No Lockouts? I Must Be Dreaming!


by Jay Blumenthal, AFM Symphonic Services Director

 Jay BlumenthalThis issue of the International Musician provides the Symphonic Services Division (SSD) with an opportunity to look back over the prior year and give some perspective to symphonic events. This past year provided a variety of good, challenging, and some troubling, happenings.

The Good

At this writing, there are no symphonic strikes or lockouts. The barrage of lockouts has subsided (at least for now), putting many musicians back to work and giving us an opportunity to replenish our Symphonic Strike Fund coffers. The number of symphonic audition advertisements in the International Musician is up considerably (25%), leading us to believe that orchestras are filling positions that went unfilled for years. While contract negotiations remain challenging, we are beginning to see annual increases in the 2% to 4.25% range. I attribute this to the improving economy and a desire for labor peace.

Agreement was reached on a successor Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) with the Employers Electronic Media Association (EMA), which represents 72 orchestra managements. Musicians from these orchestras ratified the IMA April 2. The AFM has created a “me too” agreement for orchestras that have not joined  the EMA but do wish to sign the IMA. This agreement has a growing list of signatories.

The AFM symphonic wage charts for the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), and Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) are now available digitally for review on the website:  You can access the charts with your AFM user name and password. Presently, you can download and print the charts. Eventually, as we add capabilities to the site, you will be able to search, create reports, generate comparison graphs, and view past charts. With continued development of the site, the charts will become dynamic, allowing delegate updates in real-time, rather than just providing annual updates.

New SSD Negotiator, Organizer & Educator Todd Jelen has been visiting locals and meeting with AFM orchestras, exposing the truth about “right to work” and the benefits of union membership. Jelen builds and maintains a relationship with each local he visits in order  to support continued organizing efforts. He is also developing a new local officer/orchestra committee training presentation that will help address this growing need within the AFM.

The Challenging

Hartford Symphony Orchestra negotiations are ongoing, but management’s proposals would result in up to a 40% cut in wages, which has created grave concern among the musicians. If the intransigence of management’s positions remains an issue, the Connecticut Valley Federation of Musicians, Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT), is planning a rally in support of Hartford Symphony musicians. It will be held at noon, Wednesday, September 9, in front of the Connecticut State Capitol Building.

Orchestra London is currently going through bankruptcy. A bankruptcy trustee is evaluating the orchestra’s assets. With the help of donations, the musicians would like to purchase the assets when they are put up for sale. In the meantime, musicians are maintaining a public presence by performing concerts. Donations and ticket sales have helped to pay the musicians who perform. If city funding becomes available, musicians hope to have at least a partial season next fall. The London Arts Council has been supportive throughout the process.

The Troubling and Pending

As the IMA negotiations with Colorado Symphony continue, the AFM received a recertification petition from some of the Colorado Symphony musicians. The petition is currently blocked due to several pending unfair labor practice charges being examined by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Future

While some orchestras are still clawing their way back toward normalcy, others are seeing a bright future as evidenced by record ticket sales. Expanded community and educational outreach programs are playing a more central role in their activities. Appealing to the younger generation as they continue to develop their eclectic tastes in music (including symphonic music), is crucial to building tomorrow’s audience base. We must do whatever we can to embrace them, plus renew our efforts to demand that music education become a core requirement in all school curricula.

In closing, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the entire SSD staff and Attorney Rochelle Skolnick who work tirelessly on behalf of all orchestra musicians.

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