Tag Archives: Symphonic Services Division

Integrated Media Agreement

The Role of the Orchestra Committee Under the Integrated Media Agreement

Deborah newmarkby Deborah Newmark, AFM Director of Symphonic Electronic Media

You have just been elected to the orchestra committee. Congratulations! Perhaps this is your first time serving on the committee and you are not yet sure of your responsibilities. You probably suspect that there will be issues the committee regularly deals with related to the enforcement of the local contract, but what you may not know is that the orchestra committee has an essential role in the workings of the AFM Symphony Opera Ballet Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). 

While the IMA is a national media agreement administered by the AFM’s national office, the agreement does contain numerous provisions that require the orchestra committee to make certain decisions and/or seek approval from the full orchestra, when necessary. The purpose of this article is to help familiarize orchestra committees with those responsibilities so they will be in a better position to take a proactive approach in getting things done in accordance with the terms of the agreement. This review will help new members, as well as long-term committee representatives, who can all refer to this article as a guide. 

Why encourage a more proactive approach? One reason is the tendency to see a revolving door of management personnel in our orchestras. This leaves us with new staff lacking experience in the workings of these agreements. Even experienced managers leave the discussion of projects until the last minute, which totally contradicts the way this agreement is designed to work. In all cases, it should come as no surprise that much of the in-house educating falls to our committees who represent the interests of the musicians in our orchestras. This is an important responsibility when additional income may be derived from the use of this product.

Under older symphonic media agreements the committee had a smaller role. That role has expanded over the past two decades into one that now requires more consultation and decision-making. A new structure exists where a more collaborative working relationship between the employer and the orchestra committee is required to move projects forward.

So how does that collaborative model manifest itself under the IMA?

The IMA is an agreement containing a variety of upfront wages for the capture and release of live concert recordings in a number of different mediums. It also contains back-end revenue participation from the exploitation of that product. Under the current agreement, musicians are entitled to 60% of the revenue received by the employer after they recoup their direct costs. 

The first step is the artistic, financial consultative, and approval process. The employer must approach the orchestra committee at least four weeks in advance to discuss a potential project. If they come to the committee within the four-week window before the project is due to be recorded, then the committee must automatically take the project to the full orchestra to approve.

It is important to note that even when the IMA doesn’t require a full orchestra vote, the committee can determine that the input of the full orchestra is necessary. They have the right to determine if it is in their best interest to go to the full orchestra for input and/or a vote.

How does this process unfold?

The employer should prepare a budget for the project in advance of the first meeting. The budget should separate the costs paid by the employer and those paid by third parties. Only those paid by the employer may be recouped before sharing revenue. The employer should also include a proposed repertoire list for consideration, information about the economics of any proposed license, the terms of the distribution deal with any partners, and the financial arrangements with the conductor and soloists. If they start the process more than four weeks in advance, it gives the committee enough time to ask questions and receive necessary responses in order to move the project forward either via orchestra committee approval, or in cases where it is required or determined to be needed, full orchestra approval.

The media created under this agreement is typically licensed to a third party for distribution (our employers are not in the business of distributing product whether physical or digital). The financial deal with distribution partners determines how much revenue will ultimately come into the institution to be later shared with musicians. Is it a poorly structured deal that won’t generate revenue or is it a sound deal? Is the committee comfortable with a possible request to extend the proposed license at the end of its term? These are questions committees grapple with before a project is approved.

It is vital that committees not take this responsibility lightly. The agreement gives them oversight and approval rights. Not exercising those rights properly, will cause difficulties down the road. The committee helps to ensure compliance with the agreement. The AFM is always available to assist when questions arise. Committees are in touch with us on a regular basis for both training and assistance during the evaluation process, but we can’t stress enough the importance of utilizing the consultation and approval process provided for in this agreement. It will go a long way to protect the rights of musicians in AFM symphony, opera, or ballet orchestras.

We are still in bargaining for the successor to the 2015-2017 IMA. Any changes that affect the orchestra committee’s role in a future agreement will be reported after we finish these negotiations and ratify the new contract.

orchestra committee

What to Expect If You Are Elected to the Orchestra Committee

by Jane Owen, AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator

The best experiences I have as an AFM negotiator are getting to meet and work with the musicians who are part of their organization’s orchestra committee. These orchestra members, elected by their colleagues, take on the responsibilities of representing fellow musicians in the day-to-day business of performing in an orchestra, with all the attention to detail and artistic excellence that job entails. They are resourceful, hard-working, creative, and caring individuals who are often the unsung heroes dealing with the challenges of ongoing contract administration.

The orchestra committee acts as the representative of the AFM and your local in the workplace. For an orchestra that has no union steward, committee members are often the only representatives present when rehearsals and concerts are happening. The committee is part of the union team (consisting of the orchestra committee, the union steward, and local officers) responsible for the administration of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in the workplace. In a typical season, as an orchestra committee member, you can expect to deal with questions about and violations of your CBA, both major and minor. Many of these questions will come to you from the musicians. It is important that every musician in your orchestra knows who the committee members are and how to reach them.

Organizing the orchestra committee is the first step. As soon as the committee is chosen, the chair, secretary, and treasurer should be decided upon among the committee members. All the members of the committee should have a copy of their orchestra’s musicians’ association by-laws, as well as the current CBA, and a roster of all the members of the orchestra who are in the bargaining unit. Familiarize yourselves with the deadlines for dues, which need to be paid to the respective orchestra conferences (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians, or Regional Orchestra Players Association), and strike funds, if applicable. Is the orchestra committee responsible for holding elections for other musician committees—audition committees, peer review committees, players’ conference representatives, or board representatives? If so, what are those deadlines?

Now the real work begins! You may find yourself dealing with day-to-day problems of setup, lighting, temperature, or other working conditions. On the other end of the spectrum, you may be handling more long-term issues of discipline, dismissal proceedings, or harassment in the workplace. Management will also come to the orchestra committee with questions about how to interpret articles of the CBA, items not covered by the CBA, and approval for circumstances that may go against the CBA. Some issues can be handled quickly, on-site by the orchestra committee chair or another committee member, if the chair is not present. Others may require consultation and decisions by the entire committee. It is critical to involve the local in matters concerning discipline or dismissal or where management is asking for a waiver of CBA provisions. These can implicate the union’s duty of fair representation. Questions concerning electronic media will likely require the involvement of, not only the local, but the Federation as well—including a call to AFM Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark.

More orchestras are realizing that musician interaction with audience members and members of the community at-large are essential for continuing success for our organizations. Committee members can be helpful in encouraging this interaction through community activities, meet-and-greet opportunities for audience members, social media posts, and newsletters sent to our interested fans.

Where you do not have a separate negotiating committee, preparations for negotiations and the negotiations themselves are the responsibility of the orchestra committee. In the years leading up to a negotiation, the committee should keep record of situations that have arisen during the term of their current CBA, resolutions of those situations, and applicable article numbers. If you have been elected to a committee that will be negotiating, you will likely spend a lot of time doing preparation during the last season of your CBA preceding the negotiation. Surveys of the musicians, research into other CBAs and orchestras, and committee meetings to come up with a union proposal will be necessary. Negotiation committee members will need to be present for negotiation meetings, which can go on for hours, over several days, weeks, or months.

Participation in the orchestra committee and/or negotiating committee is, in short, a serious commitment of time and energy. It is a commitment to your fellow musicians, to your profession, to your local, and to the AFM as a whole. It can be the most annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, and, in the end, the most rewarding, service you do for your fellow musicians.

Symphonic Services Division

AFM’s Symphonic Services Division Highlights

Staff Additionsby Rochelle Skolnick, AFM Symphonic Services Division Director

Welcome to the 2017 special Symphonic Services Division edition of the International Musician! The members of the International Musician Editorial Board spent our first meeting early this year discussing our visions and aspirations for the magazine. As Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal wrote in the April issue, the IM is the official journal of the AFM but it is also so much more. It is, in my view, a place in which we have the opportunity to tell the story of who we are—as musicians, as unionists, and as members of our communities. The narratives we tell about ourselves not only document our past accomplishments but also have tremendous potential to inspire and to shape the future.

Joseph Conyers’ story (page 20) is one such inspirational narrative. Conyers leads by example, investing his considerable energy in bringing the art form he loves to children in underserved communities, empowering and inspiring them to realize their full potential. While most of these young people will go on to careers in other fields, some may find their future enriching the fabric of our professional orchestras. Conyers’ outreach efforts are consistent with a broader movement to diversify the American orchestra, both on and off stage.

As ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow writes in this issue, she and I recently attended the annual conference of the League of American Orchestras, which took place in Detroit and had as its theme “Transformation in American Orchestras.” It kicked off with a diversity forum in which dozens of industry stakeholders participated. Relations between the League and the AFM have often been strained but I believe we have consensus with regard to the value of diversity and inclusion within our field.

The IM is also a wonderful tool for the dissemination of information to our members, orchestra committees, and local officers. This issue is chock full of guidance pertaining to every aspect of representing musicians in our symphonic workplaces. Our Canadian SSD staff has collaborated to produce a detailed primer on organizing toward a first collective bargaining agreement within Canada and under Canadian provincial labour law. Laurence Hofmann walks us through the use of the wagechart.afm.org database to develop comparative data-based arguments in support of contract negotiations.

Our local unions depend upon the volunteer service of rank-and-file musicians on orchestra committees to assist in CBA negotiations and enforcement. In this issue, Chris Durham offers his invaluable perspective on best practices for service on orchestra committees. Jane Owen reminds us that the work of those committees doesn’t end when a new CBA is inked. Dawn Hannay (profiled on page 26) speaks to the importance of committee service as a means of carrying forward the legacy of those who fought to make conditions in our symphony orchestras what they are today.

Todd Jelen describes practical steps local unions can take now to insulate themselves against the adverse effects of pending anti-union “right to work” legislation. And Debbie Newmark introduces us to the intricacies of obtaining fair compensation for streaming of our recorded product and the AFM’s efforts in that regard. We are also fortunate to hear in this issue from the leaders of all three symphonic player conferences. Their contributions to the wellbeing of our musicians and our industry cannot be overstated.

Symphonic musicians are conditioned to read the IM starting from the back—the audition ads—and I don’t expect that will change any time soon. But with each issue of the IM we strive to offer content that entices you to delve into the heart of the magazine and linger over stories that inspire, entertain, and inform. I thank all the contributors who have made that a reality with this month’s issue.

orchestra committee

Negotiating a first Agreement for Canadian Orchestras

by Bernard LeBlanc, AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Canada Director and Associate Directors Christine Little Ardagh and Steve Mosher

Note: This article addresses the topic of organizing within Canada and under Canadian provincial labour law. Some of the techniques described in this article would not be advisable when organizing an orchestra in the US under US labor law. For assistance in organizing a US symphony orchestra, please contact SSD.

Anyone who has served on an orchestra or negotiations committee knows how much work is done behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly on stage. Regularly negotiated agreements deal with the endless details inherent in organizing large-scale performances and reflect the commitment of committee members and local officers to improve and update working conditions for the musicians in their organizations.

But what if you play in an orchestra where there is no agreement in place and you think that your orchestra would benefit from a different kind of relationship with your management? This year the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) Symphonic Services Division has been working closely with several orchestras, including those in Kingston, Gatineau, and St. John’s, seeking a first agreement between the CFM or the AFM local and the symphony societies. There is no one-size-fits-all template and outcomes are always contingent on the enthusiasm, competence, and commitment of a variety of people (on both sides of the table) to shepherd an idea through to completion. There are, however, standard questions and steps that can apply to most situations.

What are the first questions to ask?

Is there a set of guidelines that currently govern how the orchestra operates? Does it outline fees, working conditions, dispute resolution, guaranteed number of services to a core group, etc.? And when was it last updated?

Is there an elected orchestra committee? The orchestra committee must talk to the orchestra to find out the appetite for a negotiated agreement by asking them to vote on whether to pursue an agreement or not. The musicians should be informed that they will all be required to join the local and keep their membership up-to-date.

Do you already have a member of the orchestra invited to board meetings? Find out if the management and board are open to the idea of entering into a more formal agreement. If they are, inform both management and the board of what has been going on and get a feel of whether or not they will meet with the local to discuss first steps.

What preparation needs to be done?

Create a negotiations committee. This is separate from the orchestra committee, but should have some crossover. It should be drawn from a cross-section of the orchestra and, if possible, include section strings, winds, and brass, and principal players. The negotiations committee may be elected. The orchestra committee can post a sign-up sheet, and in that way, invite broader representation.

Create and adopt orchestra bylaws. The orchestra will benefit in the long run from having a constitution and bylaws that govern day-to-day operations of the players’ association. The bylaws should also refer to contract negotiations and the method for striking a negotiations committee. The negotiations committee should then set their own guidelines for the current round of negotiations. Make sure that your local officer has a copy of the bylaws. The local is the signatory to your agreement. If they don’t know what is in your bylaws, it will affect their ability to deal with any problems or issues that come up during or between negotiations.

Survey orchestra members. Find out what orchestra members want in an agreement and identify areas where there have been problems in the past.

List current orchestra members: The orchestra committee and local should work together on creating a complete list. Include anyone who has played a concert with the orchestra in the past three years.

What are some general suggestions for contract negotiations?

Symphonic Services has pamphlets that outline the procedure and include model language for contract negotiations. The negotiations committee must present reasonable proposals to management that the entire committee agrees on, which means that a great deal of discussion must happen in caucus prior to meeting with management. Personal agendas may be aired and given consideration, but it is always the primary duty of the negotiations committee to represent the orchestra fairly.

Templates are available from the Symphonic Services Division for the following:

• Orchestra committee bylaws

• Negotiations committee guidelines

• Orchestra surveys

• Robert’s Rules/Bourinot’s Rules/Code
Morin (in Québec)

Always follow the survey results. The orchestra has let you know how they feel about each of the questions or statements presented in the survey. It is important to respect and include that input. It is essential that there is transparency and consistency throughout the process, and no hint that the orchestra committee, negotiations committee, or the local is deviating from the stated goals of the committee.

What kind of agreement best suits our needs?

Unlike musicians in the US, the majority of symphony musicians in Canada are independent contractors (self-employed), although there are some orchestras where musicians are classified as employees, including dependent contractors, under the Labour Relations Act. Symphonic Services can provide documents that outline the differences between employer/employee covenants and agreements for self-employed independent contractors. There can be implications for tax status and the Canada Revenue Agency that need to be considered. SSD can provide access to an online archive related to arts organizations to help understand the relevant issues.

In most cases, the CFM or the local seeks a collective agreement with the symphony society. The principal ways to achieve that are 1) through certification under the Labour Relations Act and collective bargaining (employer/employee relationship, including dependent contractor) or, 2) through voluntary recognition of the CFM, or the local, for collective bargaining. However, the first attempt at negotiation does not always result in a collective agreement and, in some cases, it is not the desired outcome. If that’s the case, or in the event that the management does not recognize the CFM or the local as the exclusive bargaining agent, a properly crafted “master” agreement with reference to the Arbitration Act is enforceable in the event of a dispute.

Provincial Labour Laws

Check your provincial labour laws related to the bargaining process. There are timelines to follow with respect to certification and collective bargaining. There are similar timelines for Voluntary Recognition Agreements once the CFM or local is recognized as the exclusive bargaining agent for the players. In Québec, the Status of the Artist legislation automatically recognizes Local 406, La Guilde des Musiciens et musiciennes du Québec, as the bargaining agent for musicians. 

Which key people should be
involved in the negotiations?

• Orchestra committee—four or five elected representatives

• Negotiations committee—may be elected, or open to anyone willing to make the commitment and to attend meetings; can be from three to 10 people

• Representative of the local—must be willing to attend all meetings

• Influential orchestra members—whether or not they agree to serve on a committee, they will be crucial in helping move the process forward

• AFM Symphonic Services Canada Director Bernard LeBlanc who can be reached at bleblanc@afm.org

This article is written for orchestras contemplating first negotiations, but many of the suggestions apply equally well to orchestras with existing agreements as they renegotiate new terms and conditions.  We have focussed on the areas where we have the most control and where we can generate the potential for success, which is with the musicians themselves, committees, and local officers.

Remember that an agreement may be changed every time it is re-opened or renegotiated. Orchestra bylaws or internal policies can change at any players’ association or players’ committee meeting. Always keep your local updated on changes that are made.

The Kingston, Gatineau, and St. John’s negotiations are currently in progress. SSD Canada is always ready and available to support musicians who wish to change or more clearly define their relationship with their orchestra management.

Serving on an Orchestra Committee

by Christopher Durham, Chief Field Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Divisionby Chris Durham, AFM Symphonic Services Division Chief Field Negotiator

Service on an orchestra committee is both an honor and a responsibility. A functioning orchestra committee is an essential component of union democracy within a symphony orchestra. Orchestra committees should be elected with votes cast only by union members who are tenure-track musicians of the unit. When elected to an orchestra committee, your colleagues place their trust in you to carry out business on their behalf. Service on the committee is not just a huge responsibility on behalf of others, it is also a major time commitment.

The role of the orchestra committee is to assist the local (the lawful bargaining agent) in negotiation, enforcement, and administration of the collective bargaining agreement. The committee has a legal responsibility to fairly represent all members, just as the local does. It is not the job of the committee to be a watchdog of the local, but rather to be actively involved in addressing day-to-day issues that may arise. The committee is the eyes and ears of the local on the job. Successful committees are able to shape disparate factions of bargaining unit musicians into a unified collective. The more unified a bargaining unit, the more effective the local and committee will be in their relations with the employer.

The committee and local must have a respectful working relationship with open lines of communication. The local union representative and the committee must immediately discuss major decisions, waivers of the bargaining agreement, grievances, member to member issues, discipline, discharge matters, and more, before any action is taken by either. Periodic reports by the committee to the local union’s board of directors ensure that board members, and thus other segments of the membership, are aware of the successes and challenges faced by orchestra members. The committee should report the activities and issues of other local members to the orchestra.

Active participation with the local labor council (AFL-CIO) establishes relationships with the broader labor community that may be useful in times of need. This also encourages the labor community to attend performances and view the orchestra as part of the greater labor community. Sometimes our lack of participation isolates us and gives the appearance of elitism thus discouraging people who would enjoy our performances from attending.

As a member of the committee it is your role to represent all members, not just the faction that supports you. It is not your place to advance a self-serving agenda. Committee members should be well versed in the history of recent negotiations and gain a thorough knowledge of the bargaining agreement, especially regarding grievance filing and processing and the proper way to address discipline and discharge matters. The duty to fairly represent members is an obligation of the committee, in addition to the local union. Special care must be exercised when dealing with member versus member matters. When a committee member is approached by a member who is having an issue with another member, it must be immediately reported to the local. Together, they will seek advice on addressing such matters.

The enforcement and administration of the agreement doesn’t stop once a negotiation is over. Today, more than ever, we find ourselves continuing through the term of the agreement to do many activities once only necessary (or recommended) in preparation for bargaining. The AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) once had a checklist of items to do six months in advance of a bargaining. Today, many of these tasks should be done throughout the term of the agreement. One such critical task is researching the organization’s financials. Through online sources, we can view the employer’s 990 filings and more. If there are musician representatives to the board’s finance committee, they should also make periodic updates and provide financial information to the committee. They should report fully to the local and committee on board activities; if “sworn to secrecy” by the employer’s board they cannot function as our representatives.

With the proliferation of social media we have wonderful tools to enable us to communicate daily with members and supporters. Social media tools of choice—Facebook, Twitter, musician websites, or electronic newsletters—should always be up to date. Effective public information sharing should be ongoing. Databases containing bargaining unit member information; status of orchestra alumni, retirees, and audience members; board and staff contact information; and other supporter data should always be current. Maintaining active relationships with all constituencies is important. Much of this work can be done by members who do not want to serve on the committee, but are willing to volunteer for specific jobs. Our communication should also reach the greater labor community locally, as well as to AFM and player conferences.

The tough work of orchestra committee members should be valued and appreciated by members of the bargaining unit. Members work long hours volunteering to do their best for the welfare of their colleagues. Committees don’t always have good news or news that everyone in the unit will enjoy hearing. Members of the bargaining unit should refrain from attacking members of the committee or placing responsibility for a bad outcome on the committee or its members. In reality, the outcome of a negotiation is dependent on the health and position of the organization and proportionate to the resolve of the unit. Such attacks and blame do not help the outcome, but will likely discourage good and effective people from performing essential service on an orchestra committee.

Right to Work

Protect Your Union Against National Right to Work

by Todd Jelen, AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator, Organizer, Educator

“Right to work” laws may soon be coming to every state in the union. On February 1, Representative Steve King (R-IA) introduced a bill crafted by the National Right to Work Foundation that would make private sector workplaces in every state right to work. This means that employees would receive the benefits of collective bargaining without being required to be union members. In addition, the bill would alter the Railway Labor Act, making railway and airline jobs right to work, which will not only affect our brothers and sisters in those industries, but could possibly make our airlines and rail systems less safe. The arguments against right to work have been well documented in the International Musician over the past few months. I would like to discuss what each of us can do to fight against the effects of these laws and to grow our power in the face of coming adversity. Following are a few simple things you can do to prepare your contracts. 

1) Negotiate multi-year contracts before the law takes effect. Contracts in place when the law takes effect will be enforced (including the union security clause) for the life of the agreement. Use this time to organize and get ready for the future.

2) Don’t eliminate union security clauses. Despite what management may assert, retaining your current union security clause is not illegal; these clauses are just unenforceable. In the event right to work legislation is later repealed, your union security clause will once again come into effect.

3) Don’t alter work dues check-off language or forms. Management often tries to convince the union that dues check-off is a part of right to work. Dues check-off is, instead, governed by several National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cases and is unaffected by right to work legislation. Management acts only as a pass-through for dues remitted pursuant to an agreement between the union and its members.

4) Maintain the role of the union as exclusive bargaining agent. Management may attempt to dilute this role through “artistic policy” committees or through musician representatives to symphony boards. By discussing wages, hours, and conditions of work under the guise of “artistic policy” or board privilege, they hope to circumvent the union and its agents, the orchestra committee. Don’t agree to provisions in your contract that would overempower these committees. Be vigilant of management pressuring musicians who serve on committees into overstepping their roles.   

In addition to the above precautions, the single best practice against right to work has always been to organize your members. For those of us currently in free bargaining states, it is time to start analyzing your workplaces for possible fault lines. You should have an accurate idea of what everyone’s issues and concerns in the workplace are so you can effectively address them all. Create short and long-term plans to realize each issue and include members in their planning and execution. 

As we analyze our workplaces, we must also analyze ourselves. Do we truly hear others’ opinions or do we brush them off? Do we include minority opinions in our conversations, or do we push on without regard to them? Organizing is difficult and takes time to do effectively. Well-meaning advocates can often perpetuate the very divides we are trying to heal when they cut corners. We can only engage everyone in the process when all are heard and given an opportunity to participate. Inclusion leads to ownership, which leads to solidarity and true power to fight for our interests in the workplace!

For those of us already in right to work states, this may seem like business as usual, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many cases in process that seek to challenge, as well as to expand, right to work laws and national right to work may be ineffective for some time, pending the outcomes. In addition, you are about to see your brothers and sisters in free bargaining states come together to combat right to work.  Now is your time to join their call to action to bring the fight to all 50 states. If we all work together, we can improve our circumstances no matter what congress and corporate interests try to impose on our workplace democracy!


Solidarity and Resolve Essential to CBA Growth, NEA Preservation

by Rochelle Skolnick, Director, Symphonic Services Division and Special Counsel

As a close reader of the “Orchestra News” section of the International Musician might have noticed, orchestra contract settlements over the past year or so have almost uniformly exemplified the “growth not cuts” mantra adopted by the courageous musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra during their contentious negotiations and strike. That growth has, in many cases, been incremental rather than dramatic but is nonetheless notable because it is symptomatic of a certain robust health within the symphonic field.

That health was confirmed by a longitudinal study (Orchestra Facts: 2006-2014) released by the League of American Orchestras in November 2016. Although that report received some attention at the time of its release, the press coverage largely missed one of its most important points. The study shows that, although the balance of funding sources for our orchestras has shifted somewhat over time, each of the funding streams upon which orchestras traditionally rely kept pace with or substantially outpaced inflation during the period measured by the study—with the exception of earned income, which trailed inflation by only 1%.

In the case of contributed income from trustees and foundations, which outpaced inflation by 45% and 13% respectively, the differential was dramatic. Yet, despite the industry-wide vigor in funding streams, expenses—the side of the ledger on which we find musician wages and benefits—actually trailed inflation for the same period, by 2.8%.

I believe that the relatively progressive contracts we have begun to see in the period since the League study concluded in 2014 represent a restoration to musicians of some of what was lost in the deeply concessionary bargaining that occurred post-2008. It’s about time.

But that restoration is not happening simply because managers and boards find it in the goodness of their hearts to take care of the musicians whose creativity and dedication draws patrons to concert halls and inspires donors to write checks. It certainly was not employer beneficence that brought the Fort Worth Symphony musicians back to the stage with a progressive contract after 13 weeks on the picket line. Rather, in every case, it has been the musicians’ solidarity and resolve that has won them their recent gains.

That was so for the musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony and it has been so for the musicians of other orchestras making significant gains, including the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Austin, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Nashville, National, Pacific, St. Louis, and San Diego orchestras, among others.

It will take similar solidarity and resolve to beat back another peril to American orchestras: threatened cuts to governmental arts funding, including the outright elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, contained in the presidential budget proposal released March 16. The $148 million annual budget of the NEA represents just .012% of all federal discretionary spending, yet it profoundly touches the lives of American orchestra musicians and all those they serve.

NEA Funding

That effect is far from speculative or remote. Besides having reached progressive contract settlements in the past year, what do the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Austin, Detroit, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Nashville, National, Pacific, St. Louis and San Diego symphonies have in common? They all receive NEA grant funding.

In fiscal years 2016 and/or 2017, each one of those orchestras received an NEA grant to support one of a wide range of projects, both strikingly beautiful and culturally relevant. Grants went to support “Imagine Your Parks” events connecting several orchestras (including Jacksonville and St. Louis) with National Parks sites; a community engagement program focused on Buffalo’s international community in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools; premieres of new orchestral works written about and to loved ones (Kansas City); the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival, featuring works by living Southern California-based composers; and the National Symphony Orchestra’s Sound Health initiative, which presents live classical music performances at DC-area medical facilities to enrich the lives of patients, family members, medical staff, and visitors.

These are just a few of the NEA-supported programs that expand minds and build connections among diverse groups of people. While abolition of the NEA would have a negligible effect on the federal budget, it would have a devastating effect on curiosity, intelligence, and empathy.

The March 16 budget proposal is only that—a proposal. It will be up to Congress to write the budget. As that process unfolds, I hope you will ensure your voice is heard in support of continued funding for the NEA and the myriad symphonic projects it enables. Tell members of Congress to Save the NEA at: www.afm.org/2017/02/nea/.


At a moment when the voices of xenophobia and bigotry are raised louder in our political discourse than I ever thought possible in my lifetime, the International Orchestra Conference (IOC) taking place in Montreal, May 11-14, offers a meaningful opportunity for American and Canadian musicians to share the experiences of our sisters and brothers in symphony orchestras around the globe. The IOC is a project of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), the international organization for musicians’ unions and representative organizations with approximately 70 institutional members in 60 countries throughout the world.

The AFM will have a substantial presence at the IOC with AFM elected officers (AFM President Ray Hair, Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, International Executive Board member and Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi, and Local 406 President Luc Fortin and Secretary Eric Lefebvre); symphonic player conference leaders (ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow, OCSM/OMOSC President Robert Fraser, and ROPA Board Member Naomi Bensdorf-Frisch); and myself serving as moderators and panelists.

Topics covered will include the public value of orchestras, recorded broadcasts and musicians’ rights; orchestras integrating digital tools; practical aspects of outreach and education; unions’ roles in preserving orchestral institutions; the role of musicians serving on orchestra boards; and bullying and harassment. Other US and Canadian panelists will be Robert Massey, executive director of the Jacksonville Symphony, which concluded very progressive contract negotiations this season; Barbara Haws, New York Philharmonic archivist/historian; and Katherine Carleton, executive director of Orchestras Canada. Discussions promise to be lively and to promote understanding among orchestra musicians across international borders. I hope to see many of you joining us in Montreal.

Rochelle Skolnick

Moving Forward: New SSD Director; Assistant Secretary and 2016 IM Awards

A concern expressed to me by many delegates attending the AFM Convention last June was who would become the AFM director of Symphonic Services Division (SSD), if I became the secretary-treasurer. Indeed, filling the director position with the right individual presented a challenge, but as it turned out, there were several qualified applicants.

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Staff Additions — SSD Director, West Coast In-house Counsel

I am delighted to announce two important changes to Federation staff—one in our Symphonic Services Division (SSD) located in our headquarters office in Times Square, filling a vacancy left by the election of former Director Jay Blumenthal to the position of AFM Secretary-Treasurer, and another in our Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) at the Federation’s West Coast Office in Hollywood. The staffing changes have resulted in the addition of two of the best minds and finest lawyers to be found in the field of union-side labor relations. They are Rochelle Skolnick and Russell Naymark.

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Back to Basics

Freedom of Information … Act! Information Locals Are Entitled

by Todd Jelen, Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

Todd-JelenMost seasoned orchestra committee members and local officers know that they are entitled to information from their orchestra during negotiations. Did you also know that the local is also entitled to information to help administer the contract, when it is not in negotiations?

Even if your contract doesn’t have specific language regarding this, your local is entitled to request any information necessary and relevant to contract administration and bargaining. Having this information can mean the difference between competently representing musicians and flying blind in a storm of half-truths.

Many locals do not receive the basic payroll information they’re entitled to. Locals often receive checks for work dues with no explanation where they were deducted from, the number of services played, rate of pay, health and welfare and pension payments made, doubling, cartage, and numerous other compensation categories that are negotiated in our collective bargaining agreements. Without this detailed information, locals cannot accurately represent musicians on occasions when doubling might accidentally not be paid, or if a section musician wasn’t compensated properly when they filled in for a sick or absent principal.

Another concerning trend is the lack of transparency when documenting the discipline and dismissal of musicians. The local needs this information to accurately assess whether or not the discipline is valid before the decision to file a grievance is made, as well as during the grievance process. This information is crucial to ascertain if the punishment was fair, if timelines were followed, or if any evidence exists that would help exonerate the musician.

Quite often, when locals request information outside of negotiations they encounter management pushback. They commonly hear: “If there is a problem, musicians can ask us about it and we will fix it for them” or “this is a private matter between the orchestra and its musicians.” These statements, whether intentionally nefarious or not, violate the very tenets of unionism.

The union is the sole representative of musicians and has a duty to represent all musicians regardless of membership status, or status in the orchestra. Refusing to furnish information to maintain the contract is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Without this information, our locals cannot properly investigate potential problems and are at risk of not fulfilling their duty of fair representation.

Sometimes musicians will inadvertently enable management by requesting information be withheld from the local because they feel embarrassed or they think that they can handle issues on their own. Musicians that help to conceal information are robbing themselves of union protection. This also increases the chance that other musicians will have the same problem. If all musicians know about all issues in the workplace, recurring infractions are less likely.

Ask your local secretary what information your orchestra provides with regard to the maintenance of your contract. If your local receives anything less than what I described in this article, please work together with your local to contact me and we’ll discuss a plan of action. Only when we have the information we need and are entitled to receive, can we successfully represent the needs of our musicians in the workplace.