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Home » Organizing » TMA and Building Solidarity

TMA and Building Solidarity


paul castillo

by Paul Castillo, Director Executive Board Theatre Musicians Association, President SoCal Chapter TMA, and Member of Locals 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and 353 (Long Beach, CA)

I want to begin by thanking Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) President Tony D’Amico for the opportunity to write this column. Solidarity is at the heart of the TMA. A primary goal is to strengthen relationships with the Federation and the AFM locals. Current issues include ever-diminishing pit orchestras and musician/actors on the musical theatre stage. The TMA is building solidarity to fix those problems and other issues.

Part of solidarity involves supporting others in one way or another. This year TMA Vice President Heather Boehm, TMA President Emeritus Tom Mendel, and other TMA members attended rallies and spoke in support of the Chicago Symphony Musicians who, at the time of this writing, are on strike over fair wages and benefits. In March, at the invitation of my AFM local, I attended the first session of the Motion Picture and TV negotiations as an AFM member and a representative of TMA. In February, I attended the AFM Western Conference on behalf of TMA.

Members working together with AFM locals and officers is critical to solidarity. In a recent conversation with a local officer it was mentioned that, prior to a local negotiation for a musical theatre agreement, an email survey was sent to AFM members who had worked under the local agreement. Some of them were members of other locals and there were few responses. A survey is a union’s way of asking for help with negotiations so that the union can ensure members get what they want in an agreement. It builds union solidarity. Without it, the union has little choice but to bargain the level of exploitation the employer will be allowed to commit upon the musicians, instead of bargaining for what musicians want. Connecting with the union is vital to successful employment.

The concept of solidarity and employment is certainly not new, and much has been written and said about it. In contemporary terms, solidarity is a major part of a support system for musical employment of all kinds. The TMA is an integral part of the AFM and musical theatre employment for musicians. The TMA, along with the AFM, are a fundamental support system for musicians employed in musical theatre. Simply put, solidarity = support system + unity = successful employment!

As the TMA continues to build solidarity, we will look for principles to incorporate in our efforts. Here are several to consider:

There is always one more thing you can do to influence the matter in your favor. Few things are more frustrating than being told “can’t do” when asking for help or information. The emphasis needs to be on what can be done. It’s not always easy to come up with “can do” items. Sometimes it’s necessary to get ideas from others, such as a support group. Then, and this is the most important part, we go and do that one thing. After that, there is always one more thing to be done.

Empty your bowl so that it may be filled. Things accumulate over time, often to the point where they are not only useless, but may be harmful. We must ask, “What are we doing that we should not be doing?” and hack away the unessential. This makes way for new things that yield better results.

Use ecological solutions. For any solution we must ask two questions: 1) Will this cause harm to ourselves? and 2) Will this cause harm to any other musicians? If the answer to both is “No,” the solution is ecological and consistent with solidarity. If the answer to either question is “Yes,” then the solution needs to be modified. If it becomes necessary to ask someone to make a sacrifice so that we may benefit, we must first ask ourselves what sacrifice we will make so that they may benefit—and make that sacrifice.