Tag Archives: strike

San Antonio Musicians Continue Strike Amid Broken Negotiations

Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony continue their strike, pushing for a fair contract for 72 full-time musicians. The musicians, members of Local 23 (San Antonio, TX), went on strike September 27 in response to management’s imposed contract that reduced the number of full-time musicians and cut wages. They have rejected the symphony board’s last offer which essentially would downsize the symphony and cut the base minimum salary for the remaining musicians from $35,700 to $24,000. 

As of the last bargaining session on March 8, the board and management were still demanding a significant reduction in the size of the orchestra from 72 positions to 50. The result would be an ensemble too small to perform the great works of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, even John Williams, all of which sell tickets and fill halls.

Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony have made it clear that they cannot perform under the conditions that the symphony board wrongfully imposed last September. “The board and management are still demanding a significant reduction in musicians’ wages, already far below industry standards, which together with demanded cuts in health insurance benefits would leave musicians in penury. And yet leadership still refuses to conduct a broad public fundraising appeal,” says Negotiating Committee Chair Mary Ellen Goree.

MOSAS Performance Fund

For the first time since going on strike in September, musicians of the San Antonio Symphony performed concerts. The Local 23 MOSAS Performance Fund gives musicians of the San Antonio Symphony an opportunity to perform and be compensated. Two recent performances by symphony musicians, which were spearheaded by community leaders at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, drew in 1,700 people.

The MOSAS Performance Fund, a nonprofit organization was established in 2015 through gifts from fellow union members, orchestras, and friends of the symphony. Between the pandemic and the strike, the fund had been dormant, but is now being used to help the musicians who created it. The fund is governed by a board of five musicians of Local 23: Brian Petkovich (president), Peter Rubins (vice president), James Seymour (secretary), Karen Stiles (treasurer), and Stephanie Westney (parliamentarian). Its mission is to present professional symphony concerts and provide educational services to the community.

Musicians staged a silent protest on March 16 to get the attention of City Council. A “Rally with MOSAS” is planned for March 26 at Veteran’s Memorial Plaza in San Antonio.

Buoyed by the recent performance, Petkovich says, “There’s a real hunger to get on stage again.” MOSAS will now need to do its own fundraising, which he calls “an interesting switch.” When Symphony Society of San Antonio (SSSA) claimed lack of funds and the need to stabilize finances, the musicians felt that no major and consistent fundraising had been implemented and they offered to help in fundraising efforts, suggesting the organization broaden its reach to involve more potential donors.

For now, the concerts will provide much- needed relief for the musicians. Petkovich says, “We were inspired by community efforts at the First Baptist Church and are pursuing a relationship with them to keep the concerts going.” He adds, “These performances need to continue to galvanize public support for our profession and be an inspiration to our community.”

Solidarity in Action: BCTGM Donates Union-Made Food to Striking Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony

The members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) know what it’s like to go through a tough strike. Securing fair contracts with food manufacturing giants like Kellogg, Nabisco, and Jon Donaire Desserts within the past year was no easy task. And it’s because of this dedication to solidarity that the international union is donating food made by its own members to support striking musicians at the San Antonio Symphony.

For months, the 72 members of AFM Local 23 have been on strike against the symphony, demanding a fair contract that recognizes their labor to make the cultural organization a success. Local 23 President Richard Oppenheim expressed his thanks to the BCTGM and said this support could not have come at a better time.

“How do we as labor help our sisters and brothers?” asked AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Emerita Linda Chavez-Thompson. “We provide what’s needed to help achieve a better livelihood. Whether this be guidance, sweat, manpower or, in the case of striking symphony workers, food. Labor is always there for each other when times call for solidarity.” Chavez-Thompson was among the volunteers packing up donated food at the San Antonio AFL-CIO offices last week.

The San Antonio central labor council and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County will be delivering the food to all families of Local 23 in the coming days. The donated bread and snack products were made by BCTGM Local 111 members at the Bimbo Bakeries USA plant in San Antonio.

Chicago Symphony Strike Settled with New Contract

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s strike came to an end in late April, as musicians ratified a new five-year contract. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped in to assist with negotiations, bringing both sides of the negotiating table to his office for a meeting. The strike was resolved two days later.

Lasting seven weeks, the strike was the longest in the orchestra’s history. The sticking point was a proposed change to retirement benefits, moving musicians from a defined-benefit pension plan, which guarantees a set amount in retirement, to a defined-contribution plan. A compromise was reached with the new contract: Current musicians will shift to a defined-contribution plan and will be responsible for the prudent investment of their individual accounts, but the organization will guarantee that they will receive the same amount in retirement as they would have had under the previous plan. That guarantee will not be available to new musicians coming into the orchestra.

Musicians will also receive raises between 2% and 3.5% in each of the five years of the contract, bringing base salary to $181,272 by the final year. Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) member Steve Lester, bassist and chair of the negotiating committee, remarks: “After about a year of negotiations, we are victorious in our efforts by protecting and maintaining our secure retirement and gaining lost ground on our annual salaries.”

Victory for Striking Stop & Shop Workers

Twelve days after 31,000 Stop & Shop grocery store workers at 241 locations across New England walked off their jobs in protest of proposed cuts to their health care, pensions, and overtime pay, the company conceded defeat.

“Today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want—good jobs, affordable health care, a better wage, and to be treated right by the company they made a success,” the union said in a statement.

The workers’ previous three-year contract had expired February 23 and the union was seeking better wages. The president of Stop & Shop, Mark McGowan, said in a statement in early April that the union’s proposed contract was “unsustainable” and could lead to higher prices for consumers.

The walkout started April 11 and, by April 23, representatives from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced a tentative agreement had been reached with the company to end the strike. The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.

“This has been a historic strike—Stop & Shop workers have shown that strike action works,” Head of UNI Global Union Commerce Mathias Bolton says. The UFCW is an affiliate of UNI. “It’s a massive win for workers everywhere—31,000 workers sent a strong message to management that, if you stand up for your colleagues, your families, and good jobs, the world will sit up and take notice.”

Stop & Shop lost more $2 million in sales, according to estimates. The victory against Stop & Shop “emboldens workers across the public and private sector,” Lane Windham, a labor expert at Georgetown University, tells The New Republic. “People get energized when they see other people standing up and winning. They can inspire more people to walk out in 2019.”

SAG-AFTRA Seeks Strike Authorization for TV Animation Workers

SAG-AFTRA is seeking a strike authorization for members working in TV animation. A strike authorization postcard was sent to “affected” TV Animation SAG-AFTRA members on July 1 and the deadline for voting was July 18. One focal point in negotiations is achieving scale wages and residuals for animated programs made for streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Performers have been working under TV animation agreements that expired June 30, 2017, and more than 20 animated series produced for initial exhibition on a subscription-based streaming platform have gone into production.

“Because that work is not covered by the traditional terms of our TV Animation Agreements, our animation performers do not have the benefit of scale minimums when they work on these programs, the overwhelming majority of which will never pay residuals for any new media exhibition,” says SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “When you go to work on an animated program made for new media, the producer can pay you as little as you are willing to accept and will likely be able to use the program on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, etc., for subscribers to view or customers to pay to download forever, without ever paying you a residual.”

This type of work is expected to continue to grow. Disney announced that it is launching its own streaming platform, where it will house original animated content, and Warner Bros. has launched the Boomerang streaming platform for animated content.

Striking Frontier Workers Face Restraining Order

A judge issued a temporary restraining order against striking Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and Ashburn, Virginia, preventing them from “engaging in certain unlawful violence, property damage, and mass picketing” that the company claims has occurred during the ongoing strike. Communications Workers of America District 12-13 Vice President Ed Mooney says there have been no incidents of strike-related misconduct.

“The company’s action comes in the face of tremendous support that residents and business owners across West Virginia have shown for the strike, and shows that the company is worried because that support could spread to Connecticut, where Frontier workers have set up informational pickets at work locations and at Frontier’s headquarters,” he says.

The strike follows 10 months of negotiations on a contract that was set to expire August 4, 2017, but was extended twice to March 4. For the striking CWA Local 142 members, job security is the main concern. Customer service complaints have been on the rise as Frontier has cut more than 500 middle-class jobs, sometimes replacing them with contractors unfit to service the network. The union wants 100% of the employees to have protection against layoffs, while Frontier is willing to offer only 85%, leaving about 200 employees at risk.

Six Flags Workers Avoid Strike

Workers at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, accepted a new contract at the end of December that averted a strike. “The membership was not thrilled with the outcome,” says International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 947 President Sal Vasquez. They had wanted health care benefits extended to all full-time seasonal employees and for part-time seasonal employees to receive paid time off for bereavement and jury duty. The two sides met with a federal mediator on December 22.

The union represents 170 ride mechanics, stage technicians, electricians, welders, landscapers, painters, and other maintenance workers whose wages range from $12 to $35 per hour. Both sides were committed to avoiding an interruption in operation. The park launched a 365-day schedule for 2018.

Legislation Ends Ontario College Faculty Strike

A five-week college faculty strike in Ontario was ended when the government passed back-to-work legislation. The strike, which began on October 16, brought 12,000 workers from 24 colleges to the picket line in hopes of gaining job security.

About 80% of college faculty members are part-time workers being paid less than their full-time colleagues with far fewer benefits and little job security. Collectively represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the workers were demanding academic autonomy and longer contracts.

OPSEU is challenging the Ontario government’s Bill 178 back-to-work legislation in court, and disputing this blatant trampling of labor rights that forced the faculty back to work on November 21. Ironically, on November 22 the government passed Bill 148, which improves certain labor standards.

College Instructors Suspended Following Strike

Four instructors from La Cité Collégiale’s respiratory therapy program were suspended for “insubordination” after asserting that they would be unable to squeeze the remaining year’s material into the condensed school calendar following the five-week strike.

The francophone instructors were asked to sign a document guaranteeing the students would complete the necessary competencies to finish school by the end of April. The instructors refused to sign the contract worrying about the ethical parameters of licensing possibly unprepared respiratory therapists who could be faced with life-or-death situations.

Even with adjustments to the school calendar, the 77 students would be missing three full weeks of instruction. Following the suspensions, the school brought in two respiratory therapy clinicians and a consultant as instructors.

Metro Workers Bring Safety Concerns to Metro

Following a string of attacks on bus drivers and other safety disputes, members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 brought its concerns to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board meeting. Representing 9,200 frontline workers, Local 689 has said that employees will stop working if they encounter what the union believes are unsafe working conditions.

“Metro uses any excuse they can to take you away from the narrative that we are working in unsafe conditions,” says ATU Local 689 President Jackie Jeter. “If I am a worker and I encounter an unsafe situation, I should have the right to take myself out of that situation until safety is procured.”

Local 689 and Metro management negotiation reached an impasse this summer—more than a year after the previous four-year deal expired. It will now be up to an arbitrator to settle the dispute over wages and benefits.

Steelworkers Strike at PTC Alliance

More than 200 workers at PTC Alliance went on strike August 18 at the end of their second shift after negotiations failed between the company and United Steelworkers Local 3059. Among the sticking points were the increased cost of insurance and the fact that the workers have not received a raise since July 2016, when there was a 40-cent across the board increase. Picketers at the Alliance, Ohio, plant are on duty 24/7, in four-hour shifts. According to Local 3059 President Jack Clouds, salaried employees are working the factory and keeping production going.