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ropa conference

Toledo ROPA Conference Brings in Local Labor Experts

by Karen Sandene, ROPA Secretary and Member of Locals 70-558 (Omaha, NE) and 463 (Lincoln, NE)

The 31st annual Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA) Conference convened last summer in Toledo, Ohio, at the Grand Plaza Hotel. The conference provided a terrific learning opportunity for the representatives of our 86 member orchestras from around the nation.

We offer our sincere appreciation to conference hosts the Toledo Symphony musicians, Local 15-286 (Toledo, OH), Local 15-286 President Al Tapin and Secretary-Treasurer Emilie Sargent, ROPA Delegate Katherine Cosgrove of Local 15-286, and numerous hard-working volunteers. We would also like to thank Conference Coordinator/New Mexico Symphony Delegate Linda Boivin of Local 618 for her outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference.

Throughout the conference, representatives of the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) provided a wealth of knowledge. The SSD staff was available for valuable one-on-one contact with delegates and spoke on several topics. They also provided several hours of training for delegates from negotiating orchestras prior to the full conference. We thank SSD Director Jay Blumenthal; Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark; Negotiators Nathan Kahn, Chris Durham, and Todd Jelen; Counsel Rochelle Skolnick; and Contract Administrator Laurence Hofmann for sharing their knowledge.

At ROPA Conferences, we strive to utilize the knowledge of local experts in the labor field. Jackie Daugherty and Dennis Albers, faculty from the Wayne State Labor Studies Center in Detroit, addressed the topics: “Mobilizing Your Membership,” “Building Participation Through Communication,” and “Building New Union Activists.” Barbara Coventry and Jerry Van Hoy of the University of Toledo discussed the union education campaign for the Ohio Senate Bill 5 (Right to Work). Jane Slaughter, former editor of Labor Notes, spoke on “Signs of Life on a Labor Movement Under Attack.” She discussed strategies implemented during the UPS and the Chicago teachers strikes, living wage campaigns, and fast food worker struggles across the nation.

Other guests who addressed the conference during the first day included Scott Boberg, manager of programs and audience engagement for the Toledo Museum of the Arts. Marc Folk, president of the Ohio Citizens for the Arts spoke of how the arts are playing a large role in Toledo’s business expansion. He stressed the importance of making our “economic value” clear to our funders and the business community. Randy Whatley of the Cypress Media Group gave a presentation on the logistics of advocacy. He has proven to be an invaluable resource to the players conferences and our orchestras.

As part of the first day’s activities, delegates split into small groups with their members-at-large (MALs) and worked for several hours learning about issues facing orchestras in their respective MAL groups.

AFM President Ray Hair led the second day of the conference with a talk on media convergence and performance rights. He also gave an excellent presentation on the history of the AFM. During the ROPA officer reports, ROPA Vice-President Nancy Nelson of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) spoke of the large number of new delegates to our conference and how they can take their fresh energy back to their orchestras. A speech from ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum of Local 618 (Albuquerque, NM) focused on the importance of orchestras reaching out to their communities.

Delegates and guests had several opportunities during the conference to sit in on break-out sessions of interest and importance to their orchestras. This year’s topics dealt with the use of Facebook/Twitter, messaging the successes in our industry, orchestra committee education, reading budgets, right-to-work/union recruitment, building participation through communication, building new union activists, and media messaging.

Other items covered during the conference included updates on the Hartford and Green Bay orchestras. Conference reports were given by Maurice Grants/Recording Musicians Association, Liz Johnston/Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians, George Troia/Theater Musicians Association, and Bruce Ridge/International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. Debbie Newmark gave a presentation on the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). Rochelle Skolnick led delegates through an invaluable mock grievance procedure, “The Curious Case of Charles the Cellist.” And, looking ahead, delegates selected Phoenix, Arizona, as the site for the 2017 ROPA Conference.

Following conference elections, members of the 2015-2016 ROPA Executive Board will include President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, Vice President Nancy Nelson, Secretary Karen Sandene, Treasurer Donna Loomis of Local 466 (El Paso, TX), Delegate-at-Large to the AFM Convention Maurice Grants of Locals 353 (Long Beach, CA) and 47 (Los Angeles, CA), and Members-at-Large Taylor Brown of Local 80 (Chattanooga, TN), Naomi Bensdorf-Frisch of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL), Janice Galassi of Local 45 (Allentown, PA), Mary Anne Lemoine of Local 154 (Colorado Springs, CO), John Michael Smith of 30-73 (St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN), Maya Stone of Locals 80 and 257 (Nashville, TN), and Steve Wade of Local 400 (Hartford, CT).

We look forward to our 32nd Conference in 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin.

ropa conference

ROPA Conference attendees gathered to show their support for Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) musicians, members of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT), who are struggling to negotiate a fair contract. (See page 9 for details.)