On September 8, Hartford musicians, Local 400 President Joseph Messina and Secretary Candace Lammers, and their supporters gathered outside the Connecticut State Capitol building to rally in support of Hartford Symphony Orchestra, which is fighting for a fair contract. Their last contract expired in 2013, and management has asked them to concede to fewer services and 40% pay cuts.
Among those who came to the Connecticut Capitol to show their support were AFM President Ray Hair, Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, and Symphonic Services Division Director Jay Blumenthal; ROPA Treasurer Donna Loomis; ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge; Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier; Connecticut AFL-CIO President and Executive Director AFSCME Council 4 Sal Luciano; Connecticut AFL-CIO Trustee Mark Espinosa; Connecticut AFL-CIO President Emeritus and longtime leader John Olsen; representatives of Danbury and Hartford Central Labor Councils; State Representative Andy Fleischmann who is a longtime friend of the labor movement, as well as arts in the schools; Connecticut Education Association representative and former House speaker Chris Donovan; workers from IATSE, AFSCME, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFT Connecticut, and FCIU; plus retirees and other concerned citizens.
Ray Hair gave a rousing speech at the rally where he called out David Fay, president and chief executive officer of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for trying to cut the musicians’ already meager $23,000 salaries, and in effect, destroy the orchestra.
“Nobody can live on $23,000 a year,” explained Hair. “That’s why they schedule rehearsals at night, during the week, to allow symphony musicians to supplement their jobs with daytime teaching and other things. Management wants to cut the workload down to about 115 [from 185] services annually for about $15,000 a season—a reduction of 38%. And what’s worse, that 38% pay cut is in the context of having daytime services. That forces musicians who make ends meet with multiple employers to choose between one job or the other. It’s a no win situation.”
All this is despite perfect concerts, recordings, and sold out shows, he continued. “The spirits that we raised here in the community and the money that we made for the businesses here are not enough for David Fay anymore.” Hair went on to detail more figures: Fay earned $400,000 last year; The Bushnell, Hartford’s performance venue, has assets of $43 million and posted profits last year; and the symphony has assets of nearly $10 million.
“I think it’s time for David Fay to face the music in Hartford,” concluded Hair. “The concessions that David Fay is asking this orchestra to concede are completely and totally unjustified. For the employer/employee relationship to function there has to be a fair bargain. If we don’t put a stop to this union busting attitude, not only here in Hartford, but everywhere else, nobody’s ever going to do it. It threatens to destroy what much of labor has achieved over the past century and it’s about to destroy the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.”
Following the rally, Hartford Symphony Orchestra musicians and their supporters marched to The Bushnell and back while carrying signs and chanting.