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July 1, 2022Ray Hair - AFM International President
by Ray Hair, AFM International President
I am pleased to report that the Federation has completed discussions with representatives of the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions for an extension of the Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Touring (SET) Theatrical Musicals agreement, which includes a 3% wage increase retroactive to April 25, 2022. The extension was promptly ratified and approved by musicians currently working under the agreements.
All terms of the existing agreements are preserved and continued through August 2023. During the summer of 2023, the Federation will commence full negotiations with Disney Theatrical and the Broadway League for successor Pamphlet B and SET agreements.
In addition to wage increases, producers had also recently agreed to an increase in weekly health benefit payments on behalf of each musician. For Local 802 (New York City) members, the weekly increase is payable to the Local 802 Health Benefits Plan. Musicians not affiliated with Local 802 will receive the weekly increase paid either directly as wages or to any other local union health plan designated by the musician.
An updated Touring Health and Safety Manual containing protocols and guidelines for North American touring productions, based on preventative strategies from the CDC, WHO, OSHA, state and local departments of health, and medical and infectious disease specialists, is currently under discussion.
An extended contract for Federation-covered touring musicals that contains progressive wage and health benefit provisions is a favorable result because no economic benefits or working conditions were compromised or conceded. But just as importantly, it buys time to build solidarity among all musicians—including those who are hired locally to augment the tours—in preparation for full negotiations with the producers one year from now. Solidarity is a critical ingredient, vital to the achievement of progressive results in collective bargaining.
It will take time to develop a comprehensive action plan involving the Federation, our locals, local musicians, and touring musicians, if we are to effectively confront and resolve the “wedge” issues that were embedded in Pamphlet B during the early 1990s and that continue to cause workplace tensions today. Foremost among those issues is a system of regulating the number of local musicians employed by the producers to augment a given production based on the length of a local engagement.
From time immemorial, Federation touring contracts enforced the promulgated house minimums unilaterally established by its locals for theatrical musical productions, requiring touring producers to hire local orchestras in numbers that met the local minimums. The producers were obligated to comply with local minimums, regardless of whether the minimums were collectively bargained.
By 1992, the producers had bargained away any contract obligation to observe local minimums. The producers had also won the right to freely establish the total number of musicians they believed were needed for their productions, which would be determined by the score. Thereafter, only in locations where local collectively bargained venue agreements contained existing minimums as of 1992, would producers be obligated to hire local musicians for their touring productions, and then, only according to an allocation scheme that saw the length of the engagement determine the number of local musicians to be hired.
Venue locations where the new 1992 Pamphlet B rules required local hiring included Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Toronto, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. No other locals could thereafter insist that touring producers hire local musicians. The rules remain in effect today.
Here is a thumbnail sketch of Pamphlet B producers’ obligations regarding the hiring of local musicians:
1) For a touring engagement of one week or less, the producers are not required to hire local musicians, despite any venue minimum.
2) For engagements of more than one and up to six weeks, the producers can travel five musicians with the tour, with the remaining compliment filled by local hires as determined by the score.
3) For engagements of more than six weeks, up to three musicians are permitted to travel with the tour, with local hires filling the remaining positions according to the score.
The rules eliminated producers’ obligations to hire local musicians to augment the productions, except in applicable venues that existed in certain locals, and then, only with diminished opportunities. For local musicians, the result was a substantial loss of employment.
In the short term, touring musicians gained additional jobs. And thus, the tensions arose between locals representing local musicians who saw their jobs eliminated, and the Federation with its obligation to fairly represent the touring musicians and seek improved wages and working conditions under Pamphlet B. The producers were the obvious winners, with fewer overall employment requirements.
Despite it all, the tour producers quickly saw how to eliminate additional jobs of both local and touring musicians through scoring reductions. They used multiple keyboards and midi-sequencing to replace wind, brass, and string parts. More recently, Disney Theatrical has implemented advanced sound reproduction technology that can simulate and replace an entire orchestra, reportedly in a manner indistinguishable to the human ear from the real thing. It is currently in use on Broadway and in Disney roadshows, and it may eventually threaten the continued employment of all theatrical musicians, local and touring alike.
And post-pandemic, we are seeing a proliferation of non-union tours, which we intend to remedy in concert with our sister unions, through joint organizing activities and legal action. These runaway rump tours are destroying good union jobs and lowering our employment standards. They must be stopped.
We will need unity across the board if we are to fight the producers and win better economic terms and protections against further erosion of employment from reduced orchestrations, the use of electronic devices, and nonunion tours. We have a year to develop a plan to dovetail the interests of local musicians, touring musicians, our locals, and the Federation. We must focus our power. Without delay, we will work to develop an action plan that addresses these destructive, divisive issues.