Tag Archives: wages

Dayton Musicians Head Off Wage Reopener

Musicians of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO), members of Local 101-473 (Dayton, OH), recently headed off an attempt by their employer to reopen talks when the ink was barely dry on a memorandum of agreement for a new CBA. The musicians, represented by Local 101-473 and assisted by AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Negotiator Jane Owen, reached agreement on a new CBA with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance in Spring 2017, after just five days of bargaining. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance comprises the DPO, Dayton Ballet, and Dayton Opera.

Almost immediately after the new master agreement was ratified, the employer sought to reopen negotiations to address financial concerns that had allegedly arisen. With the support of Local 101-473 and SSD, the players committee refused to reopen the contract, but agreed to work with the employer in an effort to address its concerns. The result of those discussions was a side letter allowing the employer a brief extension of the season into June for the last three years of the contract to accommodate concert hall scheduling conflicts.

The new four-year agreement, which began in September 2017, freezes musician compensation for the first year, but includes wage increases for all musicians (contracted and substitutes/extras) of 1% in year two and 2% in years three and four. Though the previous agreement had slashed service counts, the new agreement increases service counts in year four, adding three additional services for all contracted musicians. Between five and 10 provisional services are now included for every level of the contract. Provisional services are defined as services that are guaranteed, but with no assigned date, time, location, or program. Fifty percent of these services are to be designated by September 15 and the other 50% by January 15 of each season.

Farmworker Unions Ensured Contracts Through Mediation

The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, upheld a law that aims to get labor contracts for farmworkers whose unions and employers cannot agree on wages and working conditions.

The law prevents the employers from stalling contract talk until the workers lose their enthusiasm to organize. Under the law, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board can order mediation to achieve a contract and gives mediators the authority to set the terms of the agreement if there is a stalemate. Unions can seek mediation 90 days after demanding to bargain.

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.

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.

Tesla’s Firing Motives Questioned

Labor groups blasted the electric vehicle maker in a letter to Tesla executives, claiming union-supporters may have been dismissed because they raised issues about wages and safety in the plant. While Tesla insists the workers were let go because of poor performance, some workers among the 400 to 700 employees fired, claim they had consistently strong performance reviews before being let go. The National Labor Relations Board is also looking into whether Tesla harassed workers distributing union materials.

Tesla employs about 33,000 workers. The firings ranged from factory workers in Fremont to engineers at its Palo Alto headquarters. The company, which lost $336 million in the second quarter of the year, is preparing to ramp up production for its lower-cost Model 3 sedans. It has about 450,000 reservations for the all-electric vehicles and produced only 260 last quarter.

public radio

Public Radio, Live TV, and Relocation

I am pleased to report that, after two rounds of negotiations, the Federation has reached a successor public radio agreement with representatives of American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, which will set the pattern for wages and conditions for musicians who perform services for some two-dozen producers of public broadcasting programs, including Performance Today and Prairie Home Companion. Our successor public radio agreement becomes effective upon ratification and extends three years to January 31, 2019, with wage and applicable benefit contributions retroactive to February 1, 2016.

Important to this agreement are groundbreaking new media provisions that establish use fees and residual payments for musicians whose public radio performances are licensed to interactive digital service providers such as YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix. In addition to a new use fee payable to each musician whose performance is embodied in any clip or program exhibited via new media, 5% of producers’ gross receipts derived from the license for exhibition of any clip or program will be distributed half (2.5%) to the AFM and Employers Pension Fund, unallocated to any particular individual, and half (2.5%) to musicians.

Thanks are in order to AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, In-house Counsel Jennifer Garner, Electronic Media Services Division Director Pat Varriale, Symphonic Services Director Rochelle Skolnick,
Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark, and Local 802 (New York City) President/AFM IEB member Tino Gagliardi for their invaluable help with
these negotiations.

Live TV Negotiations

The Federation will convene its fourth round of negotiations with the NBC, ABC, and CBS television networks August 14 toward a successor agreement covering musicians performing in live television variety shows like Saturday Night Live, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars; late night shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; and specials like the Academy Awards and Grammy Awards shows.

As we all know, employers in all quarters of the commercial television industry have continued the fight to deny fair compensation to musicians, to expand their own production rights, and to deny union jurisdiction (and thus the path to negotiating fair deals) over products made for new media platforms.

Unfortunately, with previous AFM administrations, television employer intransigence was never met with a firm union-like resolve to fight through to reasonable conclusions. As a result, my administration inherited a tangle of television agreements that were expired and/or enmeshed in years-long and seemingly endless negotiations.

It has taken time to put our television house in order, but we have done so. We took on the tough negotiations, fought nose-to-nose when necessary, and showed the various employer groups an unflagging commitment to asserting our rights and obtaining fair deals. Using an approach that has been both militant and deliberate, we worked through the AFM’s outstanding television agreements and concluded deals—including successors to the TV Videotape Agreement, the Country Music Television Agreement, and the Basic Television Film Agreement—that benefited musicians and put the Federation on a firm footing for the current round of negotiations.

Of highest priority in our current TV negotiations are our efforts to improve coverage and residual compensation for musicians when programs are exhibited and streamed in new media. With the viewing public transitioning away from traditional linear television, switching off their sets in favor of on-demand online video alternatives, the watching of regularly scheduled broadcast television is dying. Against this background, the Federation’s TV new media proposals, which mirror provisions bargained successfully by our sister entertainment unions, have taken on added importance.

We have advised the networks that any successor agreement must contain on-demand streaming revenue participation for musicians at least commensurate with levels enjoyed by other workers in the industry. We will be negotiating hard for fair TV new media provisions this month, and given the networks’ difficult attitudes, I expect additional negotiating sessions will become necessary later this year, most likely in Los Angeles.

Headquarters Relocation

With the Federation’s lease at 1501 Broadway in the heart of New York City’s Times Square set to expire January 2019, and with full authorization by the International Executive Board, Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal and I have entered into negotiations to purchase an office condo in the financial district in lower Manhattan to serve as the Federation’s new home.

After comparing the costs of leasing versus purchase, we have determined that owning our offices is significantly more cost effective and will stabilize and reduce office occupancy expenses in the years and decades to come, putting to rest the Federation’s decades-old struggle over acquiring and owning its International Headquarters.

Protecting the Federation’s long-term financial interests by owning our headquarters office is a no-brainer. We will create equity, and reduce costs. We will reduce liability and increase Federation assets, all made possible by the Federation’s improved financial condition—a direct result of the hard work of our staff and the diligence, dedication, and fiscal responsibility of our magnificent International Executive Board. Watch for more details in this column next month concerning Federation media negotiations and our relocation journey.

wage chart

Use of the Comparative Analysis Feature of the AFM’s Online Wage Charts to Prepare for Negotiations

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

Gathering facts and understanding the desires of each member of the bargaining unit are two essential components of preparation for collective bargaining negotiations. Negotiators may wish to integrate a variety of data from the AFM’s wagechart.afm.org website.

The AFM’s dynamic and interactive database is designed to filter the huge amount of data collected in the wage charts of player conference orchestras. In the July 2016 International Musician, I wrote an article that detailed the features and capabilities of the database hosted at wagechart.afm.org. The wage chart, specifically the “Comparative Analysis” section of the website, is a useful tool to organize schematic and graphic reports about an orchestra’s historical data, as well as orchestra status among peer orchestras. This article will illustrate how effectively the wage chart website and its sections can be utilized in negotiations.

The data contained on the website is complex and not always uniform across player conferences. Data is collected from collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), as well as furnished by the union and the employer. When management refuses to deliver financial information, it may be drawn from the nonprofit employer’s tax returns (IRS Form 990), which are public records. Finally, this data needs to be complemented by analysis of the socio-economic and cultural environment for bargaining.

The “Historical Review” feature of the comparative analysis may be used to visualize the historical growth of the orchestra and to highlight peaks (and valleys). Events that provoked those changes should be investigated by the negotiators: the resuming of an orchestra’s stature after a strike/lockout, a new management, renewed abilities to engage funding and to apply for grants, or successful ticket and subscription sales due to talented musicians or effective marketing. Other questions of interest about the socio-economic and cultural impact on the orchestra’s growth might concern the citizens’ consumption of culture, their preference for outdoor activities, their general level of education, the main industry in the region, and more.

By comparing an orchestra with its peers, negotiators can both identify and bolster realistic bargaining positions. Peer orchestras can be found by using the “Filter by Criteria” feature and applying one or more of the five filter criteria (season length, musicians currently employed, orchestra budget, minimum annual salary, minimum weekly salary) and by indicating a range of desired values for each filter. To extend comparisons among Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and even Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) orchestras, some allowances may need to be made to allow for differing structures (e.g., season length determined by number of services vs. number of weeks).

Given all these premises, the historical review search should be followed first by a comparative one using a combination of three criteria: “orchestra size in terms of employed musicians,” “season length in terms of services guaranteed per season,” and “orchestra budget.” Then, to narrow the search further, it is best to use the five criteria all together. The scheme resulting from the search is enriched by additional items like: CBA expiration date (to understand if other orchestras may be negotiating as well), employer contribution to health care, pension fund, endowments, funds (city, state, regional, and federal funds and the proportion between public and private funds and investments), percentage of expenses dedicated to the musicians’ salary and benefits, and pertinent costs (to consider the impact of wage increases in the orchestra overall budget). The data about last season’s gains/deficits could be added to this scheme by consulting the wage charts for each individual orchestra in the “orchestras” section of the website.

A proposal that not only reflects the aspirations of the bargaining unit but is also supported by data available on the wagechart.afm.org website will have a greater likelihood of success. We all work together towards a successful negotiation. The “Comparative Analysis” is a go-to instrument to better understand the symphonic world. It will be continuously adjusted to the needs of users. This is why your suggestions, personal experiences, and comments are always welcome.

I conclude with a note from Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck:

There is a Benjamin Disraeli quote apropos to this subject: “As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.” Harvard Professor William Eisen has a mantra that he repeats over and over to his students: “You can never have enough information.” The vast information collated [at wagechart.afm.org] gives us all the tools we need to enter orchestra negotiations with a deep understanding of the marketplace. The filter tools and the historical review permit us to drill down into very specific details tailored to fit every negotiation. It would be impossible for us to collect all the data that we have at our fingertips, instantly, 24-7, and it has proven to be an invaluable resource. We would be lost without it.

Auto Worker Raises Bode Well for Retailers

About 60,000 autoworkers in Michigan and 148,000 nationwide will have extra cash to spend this month and next as profit-sharing checks from Detroit’s Big Three arrive.

Workers at General Motors Co. will get the biggest profit-sharing—up to a record $12,000 for 52,000 eligible US hourly workers, including about 21,000 in Michigan. Last year, GM-UAW members received $11,000 in profit sharing-checks.  

Ford Motor Co. announced profit sharing of up to $9,000 for its more than 56,000 UAW members, just behind last year’s record of $9,300. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said it will pay its approximately 40,000 UAW workers an average of $5,000 in profit sharing, a bump up from last year’s $4,000.

The extra money for workers is welcomed by retailers as well. While some people will put it toward home repairs, vacation, or college bills, profit-sharing checks can help with big-ticket items.


British Singer Demands Unpaid Wages

English tenor Jonathan Ansell says that he and fellow performers were never paid for a 26-date 2016 tour of UK and Ireland, peforming A Night in Venice, produced by Stephen Leatherland. Noting another Leatherland production, A Viennese Strauss Gala, was being performed at Baths Hall in Scunthorpe, UK, Ansell snapped into action and made a guest appearance. Before the show began, he climbed on-stage and addressed the audience, informing them of the owed money.

“We absolutely love what we do but I think you’ll agree that this is totally unacceptable,” said Answell, who is personally owed around £10,000 ($12,500). “It’s extremely unfortunate that I’ve had to take this drastic action here tonight but I hope it goes some way to stopping this happening to anybody else ever again.”

Ansell explains that Leatherland, who runs the production company World on Stage, left performers in “such a dreadful position” that they had not been able to pay rents and mortgages.

Ray Hair

Pattern Bargaining: A Blueprint for Improvements or Concessions?

The perennial objective of unions has been to “take wages out of competition,” as labor-economists, who analyze the supply and demand of labor and patterns in wage, income, and productivity are prone to say. By seeking to standardize minimum wages and benefits across an industry, unions can stabilize wages, prevent competition among workers and employers, and avoid a race to the bottom. More importantly for the AFM, minimum wages across given industries, such as sound recording, film, live TV, and theatrical tours, provide a floor for future improvements in successor agreements.

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