Tag Archives: union

cleveland jazz orchestra

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra Voluntarily Recognizes Union

cleveland jazz orchestra
Cleveland Jazz Orchestra performing before stay-at-home orders. By the time they play together live again, they expect to have their first collective bargaining agreement in place.

After Cleveland Jazz Orchestra musicians unanimously signed cards stating they are joining together in union, the orchestra’s board of trustees unanimously voted to voluntarily recognize the Cleveland Federation of Musicians, Local 4 (Cleveland, OH), as the musicians’ exclusive bargaining agent.

Musicians began organizing earlier this year and continued meeting via video conferencing since the onset of Ohio’s stay-at-home order. All parties are optimistic that an initial collective bargaining agreement will be reached before the scheduled start of the orchestra’s fall season.

“I am heartened that we were able to expedite this process in the midst of our current state of affairs,” said AFM Local 4 President Leonard DiCosimo. “The commitment of our musicians and the good faith demonstrated by Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is an excellent beginning for all of us.”

Solidarity Is the Heart and Soul of a Strong Union

Meredith Snow

by Meredith Snow, ICSOM Chair and Member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

As our Pension Fund heads into critical and declining status, it is important to remember that many multi-employer pensions in America are in the same boat. Public-sector state and local government pensions are in even worse shape. Hindsight is 20/20—if it were possible to turn the clock back 50 years, knowing what we do today, we would be looking at a different financial landscape.

As far back as the early 1970s, raises to our benefit multiplier—which looked reasonable at the time given actuarial assumptions and projected rate of return on investments—began to accelerate in the mid 1980s. Changes to the federal tax code, given actuarial assumptions and projected rate of return on investments, seemed to justify increasing the benefit multiplier all the way up to $4.65. Over the following decades, benefits paid out became increasingly greater than contributions.

Because of the steady drain on capital through benefit payments, the AFM-EPF never had a chance to right itself in the aftermath of the 2001 dot-com bust and the 2008 global financial crisis. We could have replaced every trustee, fired the plan employees, and moved to Omaha, but that would not have made a dent in the money-in/money-out imbalance, which is on a far larger scale than management expenses or investment fees. At this juncture, there is no feasible formula of investment returns plus contributions, allocated or not, that will return the fund to financial health. So here we are, along with millions of other Americans, with a pension plan that is turned on its head.

We have two options: drain it and allow the fund to collapse on the heads of our younger members—along with the solidarity of this union—or change the benefit payment through the only avenue available to us at this point in time: the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). As painful as it is to accept, the only path to solvency is a restructuring of our benefits.

It is easy to forget that the pension trustees are not nine in number, but 18. Every decision made relative to the pension is a negotiation between the employer trustees and our union trustees, along with paid investment advisors and actuaries. Each Fund trustee undergoes fiduciary training on a regular basis, including accounting, actuarial, and investment studies, through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEPB).

Having served nearly 20 years in ICSOM, as delegate, member-at-large, and now chair, I have worked side by side with each of our union trustees in one capacity or another. I know them to be intelligent, capable, dedicated, honest people who have spent their lives in the service of others and of our union. I trust them to find the most equitable solutions available as they craft the application to the treasury department under the guidelines of the MPRA.

As required by MPRA, our trustees have appointed a retiree representative, Brad C. Eggen, currently president of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, Local 30-73. Eggen is charged with communicating with our retirees and terminated vested participants throughout the application and approval process under MPRA. He has taken this one step further in creating an Equitable Factors Panel, composed of four additional plan participants, to assist in communicating with our AFM membership. For more information, visit http://afmretireerep.org.

The financial woes of our AFM Employer Pension Fund have created a serious challenge to our union solidarity. It is understandable that the uncertainty of promised benefits has created apprehension and anger among our AFM-EPF participants. Sacrifices will be necessary. But we must not give in to the anger at the expense of our unity. Solidarity is the heart and soul of a strong union—it means that we see each other not as rivals or statistics, but as brothers and sisters.

We must recognize that the burden of sacrifice needs to be borne equitably by the entire membership. We need to make the pension whole so that our younger members are not unduly burdened nor discouraged entirely from union membership. By setting aside our fear and anxiety, acknowledging that we are in this together, we can maximize the potential for solutions that will preserve our pension, our union, and our solidarity.

Bernie Sanders’ Staff First in Campaign History to Unionize

Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign will have a unionized workforce. The decision is a natural extension of the candidate’s policies and longstanding support for workers’ rights and a $15 per hour minimum wage. At present, the Sanders campaign has 44 eligible employees, but the union said it expects to represent more than 1,000 workers. This will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker. Negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement will begin as soon as possible.

Using wagechart.afm.org to Understand the Symphonic World

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

A unique digital tool and a dynamic  and interactive database

The website dedicated to the symphonic charts is wagechart.afm.org. All AFM members with a registered account have access to this invaluable tool that ultimately eases the understanding of the symphonic world.

Wagechart is an online platform where most current, as well as historic, data about wages and working conditions for symphony orchestras affiliated to the players conferences are collected and made available for ad hoc industry analysis. This is possible thanks to the extraordinary Comparative Analysis tool. Symphonic negotiation committees can use this tool to gather necessary basic information and generate tables and graphs in preparation for upcoming negotiations.

wagechart

Back to Basics

It’s Back to Basics to Maintain Our Rights as Workers

Todd Jelen, Negotiator, Organizer & Educator, AFM Symphonic Services Divisionby Todd Jelen, AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator/Organizer/Educator

During a recent AFM local officer training session, in the question session at the end of my presentation on “right to work” laws, a new officer raised her hand and stated: “It looks like we have to get back to basics.” Not coincidentally, this is also the current strategy that many unions, including the AFM, have adopted.

Over the past 50 years, laws that were fought for and won by workers using their voices in the public forum have been quietly eroded behind closed doors in our courtrooms and legislatures. If we become complacent, we risk losing the rights that we think are commonplace in our 21st Century workplaces. These rights were fought for and won by average workers in previous generations who did something about the injustice and inequality that surrounded them. We must get back to the basics of unionism, if workers are to survive and thrive in our uncertain future.

People working in a union has proven to be the number one check against inequality. The greatest victories in history were earned when people joined together for a common purpose. During the early 20th century, when work was often performed in dangerous and unregulated conditions and many jobs paid substandard wages, employers routinely exploited workers by finding loopholes in the law or breaking laws outright in order to maximize profits.

This was all overseen by a minority of wealthy individuals who wielded almost complete power to keep a system of inequity in place for their personal benefit. You would be correct in thinking that what I described sounds a lot like today, because our current level of inequality is about the same as it was 100 years ago. We must get back to basics, if we are to survive as workers.

There have been many challenges to our right to organize over the past 40 years. By the time this article is published, the Supreme Court may have decided the Janus vs. AFSCME case. If they rule against AFSCME (which looked certain when writing this article), then you are reading this in a world where every public sector job is right to work, regardless of the state. This decision and the overt attack on workers is a culmination of 100 years of effort by corporate America, through their think tanks, lobbyists, and legal teams, to destroy the rights earned by working people acting in union.   

The first part of this effort is right to work legislation. After right to work’s recent expansion to 28 states, the percentage of organized workplaces in the US private sector has dwindled to 6% in 2018. Janus focuses on public sector workplaces, which currently have a much higher density of 35%. We can only fight against power like this if all workers get back to basics.

When we get back to basics and work together, we can realize our incredible power as workers. When members are the driving influence in everything that we do, everyone develops ownership in the process. History has shown that we can use this power to both maintain and further our interests in our workplaces and communities. Many of our orchestras are currently using this model to organize and build power internally, even in off contract years. You too can begin to change your world, but only if you are active in doing so. There is no better time to start than now! 

OCSM’s 43rd Annual Conference: How You Can Be More Involved

by Robert Fraser, OCSM President and member of Local 247 (Victoria, BC)

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

This summer the Organization of Canadian Symphony  Musicians (OCSM) Conference will be held at the Hotel Pur in Quebec City. All orchestral musicians are invited to observe our open sessions from August 14-16. For the afternoon session on the 15th and the morning session on the 16th, we will have simultaneous English/French translation available. On those days presenters and participants will be able to work in the official language of their choice.

If you regularly read the player conference columns in this publication (thank you, by the way) you already know what we’re all about. At a typical conference, representatives from each orchestra give reports on their orchestra’s activities throughout the year. We zero in on specific issues and topics, we establish working committees that consult throughout the season (especially on issues such as electronic media), and we hear from all parties related to our industry: our union leadership, our management service organization, our pension fund, our legal experts, and guest speakers in fields ranging from public relations to health and safety.

Two years ago in this column I wrote about ways that you, as an orchestra musician, can make the best use of your orchestra’s membership in OCSM, and ways that you can get involved, even if you’re not a delegate or committee member. I will repeat some of those points here. They can never be over-emphasized.

If you are an orchestra committee member or on your orchestra’s negotiating committee: please include your OCSM delegate in your regular deliberations and communications. In cases where the OCSM delegate is on one or both committees, that’s not a problem, but sometimes we have delegates who feel “out of the loop” because there are poor lines of communication. An OCSM delegate can be a valuable asset. If they have attended multiple conferences, then they have met key people from each orchestra and have gained valuable knowledge that can assist in a number of situations. Furthermore, the delegates communicate to each other through a secure e-mail list, so they can easily gather information from each other.

If you are a long-serving musician in your orchestra: take time to compile your orchestra’s history. As orchestral musicians we do a good job of passing our musical knowledge to the next generation, but what about our knowledge of negotiations, strikes, temporary shut-downs, changes in our orchestra’s business practices, search committees, etc.? In my career, I have seen too many things repeated from orchestra to orchestra that should not have been repeated. Staff and boards come and go, but there are people in some orchestras that have been there longer than 40 years. Use them. A good place to start is to make a simple chart of your orchestra’s negotiating history for the last three contracts. This would include wage changes for each year and your orchestra’s operating expenses, at least. Thankfully, some of this has been done already—the AFM has put all our OCSM wage chart data online, going back several years.

And finally—and this is perhaps most important—there are ways to get involved in helping both your orchestra and OCSM, without spending hours on a committee. Do you have a skill that could be put to use part-time? Are you good at photography or videography? Take candid pictures or videos from a musician’s perspective. These are great for musician social media presence. Maybe you write well. Offer to write something for a blog or newsletter. Perhaps you volunteer for a community organization that could involve your colleagues. Any activity that puts your orchestra in the center of the community it serves is worthwhile.

As always, I look forward to meeting all your delegates next month, and continuing our mission to be “The voice of Canadian professional orchestra musicians.”

Local 47 Celebrates Grand Opening

 

With construction on phase 1 of the new Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Burbank headquarters complete, around 300 musicians, dignitaries, and friends turned up on May 21 to celebrate. The evening began with a rousing drumline of students from the Burbank Unified High School Marching Band. Everyone gathered in a giant tent set up in the building’s parking lot. AFM Local 47 President John Acosta and Vice President Rick Baptist acted as masters of ceremony for the evening filled with good wishes and excellent music.

“As we begin a new chapter here in Burbank, we will continue to advocate for professional musicians,” says Acosta. “Whether it be for film and television tax incentives to bring jobs back to the state of California, to advocate for more funding for our orchestras through the National Endowment for the Arts, or for fair pay for musicians performing in nightclubs, Local 47 will continue to be the voice of the professional musician in our new home for many, many years to come.”

Among the invited dignitaries who spoke at the opening were AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal; Burbank Chamber of Commerce President Gema Sanchez; Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy; Jason Maruca from the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; Pamela Marcello, district representative for Congressman Adam Schiff; Victoria Dochoghlian, field representative for Assemblymember Laura Friedman; and Arda Tchakian, district representative for Senator Anthony J. Portantino. Serena Kay Williams, secretary-treasurer emeritus, shared memories of joining Local 47 in downtown Los Angeles and attending the 1950 grand opening of its previous Vine Street location.

Guests were entertained by a quartet made up of Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians, as well as the Mike Barone Big Band, featuring special guest soloist Rickey Woodard on tenor sax, all of them Local 47 members. Each received a commemorative grand opening program book.

Guests were invited on guided tours of the 25,000-square-foot facility, which included the Local 47 financial offices, state-of-the-art rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, and an artists’ lounge. Phase 2 construction will include a multi-purpose space, which will serve as an auditorium and meeting hall.

Preparation for Bargaining

Preparation for Bargaining Is Continuous

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

Preparation for negotiating your collective bargaining agreement no longer begins six months in advance of your agreement’s expiration, nor does it end with tentative agreement on its successor. Much of this preparation occurs throughout the term of the agreement. Using the time between rounds of active bargaining to choose effective representatives, build important relationships, gather information, and exploit resources is now an essential part of preparation for bargaining.

Electing an effective orchestra and/or negotiating committee is an important function of the bargaining unit. When nominating and voting on committee members, it is important to be informed about the candidates and choose appropriately. The committee should include institutional memory and reflect a cross section of the orchestra with regard to factions and seniority. It is increasingly important that we elect people who have the desire, time, willingness, and ability to participate. We must avoid electing one-agenda candidates.

If there are members who have a special interest, but not the time or desire to become a member of the committee, they may be willing and can be assigned to do special projects or subcommittee work. Such work could include administering strike fund payments, maintaining social media tools, researching specific topics for the committee, coordinating social activities, and attending labor functions. Musicians willing to help  in these ways are huge assets to a busy committee.

There are many important relationships that must be maintained, not only when we are in crisis and need assistance. Clearly, a good relationship with management and members of the board is better than a bad relationship. We must be active in making sure this is the case. Communication with our own orchestra members is critical. An e-newsletter and periodic social functions bring everyone together outside the workplace. Regular communication and involvement with our local union officers are also vital. We must attend meetings of the union membership and executive board and make reports.

Musicians can form a coalition with other unions in our workplaces. These may include stagehands, carpenters, electricians, “front of house” workers, and scenic designers. Relationships with other trade unions can occur in a variety of ways, including attending local and state AFL-CIO meetings and sharing our workplace issues. This puts a face on our union and shows their delegates that we have concern for other workers and are not turning to them only when we need their support.

Social media gives orchestra bargaining units many tools to deliver our message and educate our followers about who we are and what we do. Orchestra musicians should consider using Facebook, Twitter, a website, e-newsletters, or other means to advance their cause and build these important relationships. Having people dedicated to setting up and maintaining these tools will assure that the content is fresh and effective.

As we administer the current agreement we may agree to variances and encounter grievances. Such events should be memorialized in detail so that we have a record to review as we formulate our next proposal. Information we collect during the term of the agreement will help guide us as we bargain the next agreement.

Many agreements permit musician participation on board subcommittees. A key committee is the finance committee. Musician representatives to employer boards and committees should make regular reports and provide information gathered during these meetings to the local officers and orchestra/negotiating committee members. At times we may encounter management’s claim that the financial information discussed or provided is confidential. This should not mean that we, as bargaining unit representatives, are prohibited from sharing with our leadership. This information is relevant to bargaining. Bargaining committees should never first discover the organization’s poor financial health at the bargaining table, especially if the musicians have a representative on the board’s finance committee.

Many orchestras participate in the AFM Strike Fund or have “war chests.” We must set an alert to pay the strike fund properly and on time, with required information. War chests are usually authorized payroll deductions that have been voted upon and approved by bargaining unit members at a meeting. The motion to establish a war chest must stipulate how the money is to be recorded and utilized. These funds are best held in an account of the local, which will take responsibility for required Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service reporting.

The SSD is prepared and always willing to discuss further ideas and needs you have as you negotiate, administer, and enforce your agreement.

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.