Tag Archives: know your rights

Solidarity and Arts: Know Your Rights!

by Laurence Hofmann, Contract Administrator, Communications & Data Coordinator, AFM Symphonic Services Division 

know-your-rightsKnow your rights! As obvious as it might sound, it can’t be overemphasized.

There is a type of question asked by symphonic musicians about the desired collaborative relationship with local representatives and the orchestra committee, and how to solve disagreements with management. Queries may include topics such as dismissal without “just cause,” too short of breaks between run-outs, arbitrary seating, hiring orders, discrimination, wages, etc. Other strictly union questions might pertain to membership dues, rights involved, grievances, benefits, etc.

Of course, this is just a sample of the specific questions  from symphonic musicians. The AFM handles a larger array of questions. Some of these are also common to other music genres, like: Can I fly with my instrument as carry-on? Is it banned under endangered species regulations? When will I receive payments for new use? And, why do film productions still go abroad to record soundtracks?

One of the sources of answers that is immediately available to you is your Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). You can also search the AFM document library, Opus 2012, Opus 2015, and/or watch the union educational video webcasts (covering healthcare, grievances, or many other important topics) in the SSD Resource Center on afm.org.

And don’t forget to check AFM Facebook and Twitter accounts for current information. Additionally, the AFM publication International Musician offers in-depth details. Your local bylaws and AFM Bylaws might provide guidance on a more general basis. AFM locals and symphonic player conferences publish their own newsletters. And, of course, there are other organizations with information for musicians like Content Creators Coalition and MusicFirst (my personal favorites).

To be your own best advocate, you should know the CBA for your orchestra. Your CBA alone gives directives to understand your rights (and obligations) within your orchestra. A comparative analysis of CBAs will help to put your situation in perspective with the national (and international) industry. For several decades, ICSOM, ROPA, and OCSM wage charts have provided an amazing tool to get a comparative look at CBAs. Data has been collected from CBAs and complemented by data from local unions (for example, dues) and orchestra managements (expenses, public and private funds, management salaries). At a glance, you can learn about the economics and working conditions in various orchestras. What kind of performances are guaranteed by the contract? What do they pay? What benefits are provided to musicians and at what cost to them? These are just a few examples.

The current 2014-2015 wage charts are now available to AFM musicians in an innovative format. The digital charts can be downloaded, saved, and/or printed, as needed, from our new website: wagechart.afm.org. In the coming months, this dedicated website will acquire new features to allow dynamic and interactive use of the charts, both current and past.

For example, the charts will soon be updated in real time with delegates able to change their data immediately after successful negotiations or upon receiving data for the tax year from the union local or management. Gradually, historical data will be made available, providing an opportunity to observe an orchestra’s progress. Furthermore, AFM members will be able to search, extrapolate, analyze, and compare several orchestras and report on specific subjects. Some searches will generate tables and graphs. Every single document (charts and reports) can be saved and printed.

One of the main advantages of up-to-date searchable data is that it empowers your arguments for wage increases and working condition improvements. These wage charts are essential negotiating tools. They will provide a look at past and current information to help you change the future.

The creation of this innovative, dynamic, and interactive website was made possible through the collaboration of ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge, ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, and a task force composed of ICSOM Secretary Laura Ross, ROPA Secretary Karen Sandene, Richard K. Jones, and OCSM President Robert Fraser. I thank all of them for their valuable input in support of this alternative to printing the charts, which was initially motivated as an environmentally friendly alternative. All the other benefits of a digital wage chart are value-added advantages that evolved from having made this decision.

Knowing your rights is the first step in being able to claim your rights. Communicating with local officers and/or consulting with the orchestra committee and union stewards are also key. United we have a stronger voice as evidenced in the Minnesota and Atlanta orchestras, which are coming back stronger than ever.

The AFM and its Symphonic Services Division (SSD) have been joining forces with other organizations and government representatives to tackle the issue of the ban on endangered species. This ban resulted in difficulties for musicians traveling with their instruments. In an attempt to ease the understanding of this complicated issue, I have edited various IM articles by AFM Political Director and Director of Diversity Alfonso Pollard into a specific guide for musicians who might have instruments containing components of endangered species—elephant ivory, tortoiseshell, pernambuco, and Brazilian rosewood. It is part of the AFM Complete Guide to Flying with Your Musical Instrument available on the AFM.org website Member’s section Documents Library, in the Legislative folder.

I’ll tirelessly keep my commitment to musician’s causes. If you have any questions contact me at (212) 869-1330 x211 or lhofmann@afm.org.

You are not alone. We all support each other. That’s why, together we are the union!