Utah Symphony—Negotiations and Settlement Update
by Gary Ofenloch and George Brown
How does an orchestra’s negotiating committee approach asking management for an extra raise (over and above the CBA guarantee) when the orchestra is facing not only a heavy debt burden but also a residual power vacuum at the top of its administration? The Utah Symphony musicians faced just such a dilemma this year when considering asking management to re-open our previously ratified 2007 contract for a base salary increase. This spring, the administration had just installed a new CEO, marketing, and operations directors, and was still in the middle of a music director search. In addition, an adventurous capital campaign had previously been put on hold owing to the startlingly sudden departure of our CEO just prior to the 2007 contract negotiations, leaving the orchestra essentially rudderless.
In spite of these extenuating circumstances, many aspects of the original 2007 contract talks went incredibly smoothly. In fact, every issue outside of base salary was negotiated with nary a hint of rancor. Many issues were resolved with neither attorney at the table (netting cost savings to both sides). In these talks, the musicians saw marked improvements in per diem, pension contributions and seniority pay, as well as in working conditions such as scheduling. We also held onto our health care coverage as it was—at 100%.
However, even with these many successful resolutions, base pay remained a huge hurdle, even to the point of putting the orchestra at risk of a work stoppage. Here, the musicians’ attorney, Joseph Hatch, proved extremely invaluable. When the players’ committee faced acquiescing to a smaller pay increase than they felt the musicians would accept, Joe successfully negotiated a clause giving the players the ability to re-open contract talks for base pay (only) the following summer for both years two and three of the contract. Mr. Hatch’s insertion of that clause may, indeed, have prevented last year’s negotiations from hitting a complete impasse. It also provided the recipe for a most interesting summer for our committee, for management, and for newly installed CEO Melia Tourangeau.
One of the stated goals of Keith Lockhart upon his arrival in 1998 was to make the Utah Symphony a destination orchestra—an orchestra that would be capable of both attracting and retaining great talent at all levels of the organization. A few years ago, the board even adopted the notion of “destination orchestra” as an integral part of its mission statement.
In the wake of 9/11, arts organizations nationwide took a long hit until the nation began to shake-off its collective malaise. The Utah Symphony was no different. As a result, by 1997 the players went into negotiations reeling from a four-year salary freeze, irrespective of walloping cost of living increases during that time. And in spite of the board’s stated intention of attracting and retaining great talent, our newer players were more active than ever in auditioning out of Salt Lake. Furthermore, fewer auditionees were coming to town than in earlier years when our contract was more competitive. Fortunately, our board saw the potential danger in this, saw that we weren’t keeping up with our peer orchestras, and so didn’t balk when our committee requested a re-opening of the contract. Nevertheless, negotiations with management, concurrent with new CEO, Melia Tourangeau’s first weeks here, were intense. Ultimately, both sides agreed to a proposed 5% salary increase next year (2009–2010, a bump from the previously negotiated 2%), which Ms. Tourangeau felt she could take to her executive committee.
Of course, it helped that some individual members of the board came forward with donations earmarked specifically for player salary raises. Obviously, this supported Tourangeau and COO David Green, who advocated strongly and effectively for our raises. But this also may not have been possible without several years of orchestra committee members being active, voting members of the board. This arrangement forged new relationships between the two sides and snowballed as more players and board members got to know one another over time. The increased individual contact seemed to humanize the process this year, bringing both sides to a better understanding of each others’ positions, and supporting a growing sense of trust all around. As a result, the mindset of the board this summer—and of our board president, Pat Richards—was supportive of the idea of a raise. Not only did they believe in the musicians, they knew what they finally had to do to truly adhere to their own mission statement.
So, how did a negotiating committee approach asking for a kicker in their raises when their orchestra was in such a strange and precarious position? In this case, it started with presenting management with a viable proposal; but more importantly, both sides were able to approach the talks from the perspective of partners, not adversaries. Finally, the leadership of Board President Pat Richards was also powerful and instrumental in advocating for the players to the board. As a result, we emerged from talks with support from the highest level of management as well as with a board that cares about the players and about its mission. And we emerged with that kicker to our raises.
Columbus Symphony Lockout Ends
by Bruce Ridge, ICSOM Chair
On September 22, the musicians of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) ratified a three-year contract, bringing an end to one of the most egregious lockouts in the history of American orchestras. While the contract contains many concessions, management’s initial proposal to eliminate 22 full-time positions was ultimately withdrawn, and the number of musicians will remain at 53.
The length of the season is greatly reduced, from 46 weeks to 31 weeks in the first year, and 38 weeks in the following years. Base salary decreases from $55,000 to $34,400 in year one, and rises to $45,000 in year three. Pension contributions are also cut, from 8.5% to 4.0%.
On July 23, the Board of the CSO cancelled the season through November, and despite this settlement, the musicians will remain out of work until that time. By then, the span of this lockout will have reached six months. During this period, the citizens of this country’s 15th largest city were deprived of their orchestra, but the musicians continued with their mission of community service by staging numerous benefit concerts.
It is exciting news that the CSO will be performing again for their audiences, but there are still difficult times ahead until the resumption of their season. Musicians everywhere hope that the CSO will gain the management and board leadership that such a great orchestra deserves. With innovative and committed management, there is no reason that the CSO should not grow, and hopefully the damage done by the current board leadership will be corrected in the years to come.
The ICSOM Governing Board wishes to thank every musician who made a donation in response to our Call to Action, which we issued in June. An unprecedented amount of money was raised to assist the Columbus musicians in their cause, and the generosity of ICSOM members and the greater musical community of North America has been inspiring to us all. With each Call to Action issued by ICSOM, the response grows stronger. We also wish to thank the AFM Strike Fund Trustees who worked to ensure that the locked out musicians would receive the maximum benefits allowable under the bylaws.
We all hope that the future will be much brighter for the great musicians of the Columbus Symphony.
National Symphony Ratifies New Four-Year Agreement
By Truman Harris, ICSOM Delegate
The National Symphony Orchestra Committee (William Foster, chair; Mark Evans; Glenn Garlick; Peter Haase; Jennifer Mondie) negotiated a four-year contract that was ratified by musicians on Labor Day. Annual salary will move from $107,198 (2007–2008) to $128,568 (2011–2012), a nearly 20% gain. Weekly scale will rise from $2,077 to $2,504 in the fourth year; seniority will increase by the same percentage, bringing the weekly minimum for a player with 20 years of service to $2,913. Effective June 5, 2012, contributions to the AFM-EPF will increase from the current 8% rate to 8.75% of scale plus seniority wages.
Other improvements include a new 20-minute intermission for a 2 1⁄2 hour rehearsal, increased from the previous 15-minute interval, and an increase in meal per diem, rising incrementally from $90 to $98 in September 2011.
Baltimore Musicians Have New Three-Year Agreement
by Mary Plaine, BSO Union Steward and ICSOM Delegate
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians started their August hiatus secure in the knowledge that when their contract expired following the gala performance on September 13, 2008, there was already a new three-year agreement in place through September 11, 2011. The contract was ratified by the musicians on August 1 and agreed to by the BSO’s board of trustees on August 4. The new agreement contains increases in minimum weekly scale in each of the three years, with scale becoming $1,560 in the first year (was $1,500 including a $40 per week EMG), $1,640 in the second year, and $1,731 in the third year. The EMG included in these weekly scale figures is $50 in the first year and $40 in the second and third years. The annual salary in the final year of the contract will be $90,012, up from $78,000 at the end of the previous contract.
The negotiating committee successfully fought off attempts by the employer to reduce payments to substitute and extra musicians. Their per-service pay will remain at 1/8 of the minimum weekly scale minus the EMG amount.
An important gain for musicians was the agreement to restore the full-time complement of musicians to the traditional 96 players plus two librarians by the expiration of this new contract. In recent contracts, musicians had agreed to keep open a number of vacancies to save the institution on expenses.
The new agreement, which went into effect on September 14, 2008, contains improvements to other areas as well, including vacation and other time off, working conditions, and severance pay. Contributions to the AFM-Employer Pension Fund in the first year will remain at 5%, increasing to 5.5% in the second year and 6% in the third year. These increases will also cover the subs and extra musicians.
Oregon Symphony Settles Amicably with Mediation
By Dolores D’Aigle, ICSOM Delegate
The Oregon Symphony has ratified a two-year contract. This is the first time in several years that a new contract was settled “on time.” The musicians appreciated management’s straightforward, efficient discussions.
With the musical leadership of Carlos Kalmar and the management leadership of Elaine Calder, the orchestra has made dramatic progress in recent years in artistic standards, donor support, and ticket sales. However the standard of living for musicians has steadily eroded since 2003, and the orchestra size has diminished from 88 to 76 players.
For this contract, musicians were unsuccessful in restoring the orchestra size, but with the help of federal mediation, a wage settlement was reached of a 5% increase for the 2008–2009 season and cost of living increase (CPI-U.S. City Average) for the 2009–2010 season. During this negotiation, our musicians acknowledged the financial difficulties of the orchestra, and our management/board were committed to finding a way to preserve the progress and quality of the institution.
Local 99 officers Ken Shirk and Bruce Fife were invaluable throughout the process.
Honolulu Symphony Settles Before Season Starts
by Steve Flanter, ICSOM Delegate
On September 3, just 15 minutes before the beginning of the first rehearsal of the 2008–2009 season, the musicians of the Honolulu Symphony completed negotiations of a three-year contract. The new master agreement includes a wage freeze for the first year, followed by increases of 5% and 7% for the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 seasons, respectively. The agreement provides for increases in per diem, and a change in the way seniority pay is calculated (formerly a specified dollar amount, it will now be a percentage of weekly scale). It also includes a contract re-opener for the 2009–2010 season for working conditions and other non-wage issues.
Washington National Opera Orchestra
by Peter de Boor, ICSOM Delegate
On August 26, the Washington National Opera Orchestra (Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra) ratified a three-year agreement with Opera management. Negotiations had been generally cordial since starting in late May but seemed in July to have ground to a halt. With contract expiration and the beginning of the new season both approaching in early September, both sides agreed to meet one last time.
The Opera has been operating in deficit for many years, and the accumulated deficit is approaching $12 million. In the face of this, management proposed an agreement in which each year became successively worse for the orchestra, with shrinking annual and weekly work guarantees, a reduction in the third year in the number of productions (for the foreseeable future) and even a reduction (by attrition) in the orchestra’s complement. Yet, they were proceeding apace with their plans to produce the company’s first-ever Ring cycle, in the fall of the second year.
The Opera is both blessed and cursed with a long-term lease of the Kennedy Center Opera House for 26 weeks of each year in the heart of the performing season. Certainly this is prime local arts real estate, but it comes at a high fixed cost (as they reported to us across the table). On the other hand, the Opera’s lease has repeatedly been put forward by the Kennedy Center as the main reason that they were not able to put on more weeks of ballet (which forms the bulk of our income from the Kennedy Center).
While the negotiating committee (aided by DILC Lenny Leibowitz) recognized our inability to force the Opera to produce more than it was able, we felt it was imperative for management to shrink the season in calendar time as well as work time. Not only would it allow our members to try to find other freelance work in the area, it would allow the Opera to give up time in the hall, so that the Kennedy Center had a chance to present other work for us.
When we arrived for the final day of negotiations, the Opera presented us with a detailed proposed schedule for the third year, showing a reduction of three weeks in the season. It was clear that management had heard our concerns and was seeking accommodation with us. In the end we accepted a reduction in the weekly guarantee, but only temporarily. We also accepted a large cut in the annual guarantee in terms of hours (though not as large as originally proposed, and we managed a slight increase in the annual guarantee in terms of dollars), and a wage freeze for 18 months (albeit with a sizeable raise in the third year). And the proposed reduction in the complement was dropped completely. Considering the financial realities of the company, we feel it is an excellent contract.
by Joe Rounds, Orchestra Committee Chair
The Pittsburgh Symphony is pleased to announce a three-year trade agreement with its musicians. The rather modest salary and pension increases of 3% per year coupled with many improvements in working conditions received overwhelming support from the membership. Our orchestra has recently faced two concessionary contracts with cuts in pay, third-year snap backs that were re-opened, and a diminished size of the ensemble. In spite of the current financial hardships faced by this country, we restored the number of players, and we did not make any concessions in health care, or in pension.
This contract shows an organization that has regained its footing and core values and is ready to start looking forward. We are relieved to be in position to take responsible, steady steps toward maintaining the stature of this great institution.
Our orchestra committee served with professionalism and enthusiasm, and certainly should have acknowledgement for weathering the storm. We were represented by Micah Howard, Stephanie Tretick, Rhian Kenny, Dennis O’Boyle, David Sogg, Joann Vosburgh, and Joe Rounds as chair. We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of attorney Louis Kushner and local union president George Clewer.