by Laurence Hofmann, AFM Symphonic Services Division Contract Administrator, Data and Communications Coordinator
No matter where your orchestra stands with regard to wages and working conditions, you still have aspirations. If you work under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), contract negotiations offer the possibility to make some of those aspirations a reality. If you work in an orchestra that is not yet organized, sharing your aspirations with your colleagues can form the basis for organizing in support of a first CBA.
We often hear from employers that our contract proposals are not “reasonable.” Using objective standards and data to support aspirational proposals helps ensure they will be based on common practice and industry standards, and that their reasonableness can be supported in negotiations. Objective standards and data can also support organizing—either in an existing bargaining unit or in a brand new one.
The best factual source for that information is the wage charts, which are a collection of data about each orchestra’s CBA (including wages, benefits, working conditions, committees, electronic media, etc.). Symphony orchestras whose musicians work under an AFM CBA are grouped for purposes of the wage charts by player conference: International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), and Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM). The CBAs and wage charts for these orchestras are hosted in the SSD Resource Center on the afm.org website. CBAs for orchestras unaffiliated with any player conference can also be found there.
Since 2016, the wage charts have been collected online to not only be edited in PDF, but also to build a seasonal dynamic and interactive database capable of creating ad hoc reports with the use of specific criteria: https://wagechart.afm.org/login.
Using data from the wage charts, you can ensure your aspirational vision is not a mirage and that there are other institutions where your aspirations are reality.
As a member of an orchestra, you are part of a collective. By finding common ground with your fellow musicians in the orchestra—organizing—you can establish a shared set of goals. While the work of organizing involves communication with every musician and the synchronization of desires and means to realize those desires, a part of that effort is based on an objective element: information about aspirational models.