On November 16, the musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony ratified a new two-year agreement that represents a step backward. It reduces their season by 7 weeks in the first year, from 52 weeks to 45, with 46 weeks in the second year. Delegate George Dimitri reports that musicians were successful in defending against a change to their peer review (artistic dismissal appeals) process. These negotiations unfortunately harmed the musicians’ relationship with their management. Throughout the protracted negotiations, however, the musicians’ internal organization strengthened, showing an unprecedented level of energy and coordination.
At Bass Performance Hall, just prior to their Symphonic Series concerts from October 9 to October 11, Fort Worth musicians informed the community of their unity and commitment through a standing moment of silence on stage. The rapidity of standing that first Friday evening was of military precision, and the concerts themselves were performed to rave reviews. At all public events throughout the autumn, musicians could be seen welcoming concertgoers on behalf of the Audience Association Committee, handing out at first the new musicians’ “bio” brochures and, later, an open letter and a fact sheet. On November 16, Fort Worth musicians performed “A Concert For Our Community,” benefitting Agape Meal Ministries at Broadway Baptist Church, which graciously hosted the concert. The effort raised enough to allow Agape to provide Thursday night meals to 200 homeless in Fort Worth for seven weeks. The irony of that number, seven weeks, was not lost on some musicians.
Fort Worth musicians feel they have great support in their community and wish their management would endorse the positive message of their future that the musicians represent. Their resolve and commitment to preserve the orchestra’s artistic excellence and community service has grown remarkably. Many leaders within the orchestra are taking immediate efforts to continue the activities and planning internally, looking forward to achieving recovery in their contract at the table in two years.
George relays the gratitude of the musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony for the support they received from musicians across the country during this difficult time. It’s good to know that there is a support network for musicians in need, and that knowledge will mean even more during the renegotiation in two years’ time.
Chicago Local 10-208 honored retiring attorney Mike Greenfield with a dinner on October 11. Greenfield has represented the musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Indianapolis Symphony, among others. Delegates to the 2010 ICSOM Conference passed a resolution recognizing Mr. Greenfield’s accomplishments. Local 10-208’s president, Gary Matts, was joined at the event by Local 10-208’s vice president, Terry Jares, former Local 10-208 president Ed Ward, ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge, the committees of the Chicago Lyric Opera (including Matthew Comerford, William Cernota, Teresa Fream, and Eric Millstein) and the Chicago Symphony (including Steve Lester, Don Koss, Roger Cline, David Sanders, and James Smelser), Chicago Symphony’s ICSOM delegate, Rachel Goldstein, and retired Chicago Symphony violinist and former ICSOM officer Tom Hall, who all came to celebrate a legendary career with Mike and his wife Rochelle.
As part of the festivities, President Matts presented Mr. Greenfield with a framed copy of “Greenfieldisms: Top Ten Pearls of Wisdom from the Big Oyster.” It would serve us all well to remember these words of wisdom from Mike Greenfield.
Top Ten Pearls of Wisdom from the Big Oyster
10. Advice to committee members: “To be an effective negotiator you have to develop calluses on your backside.”
9. Observation on a fine point: “It’s a distinction without a difference.”
8. Advice when at a crossroads: “You’ve got to fish or cut bait.”
7. Advice when tempted to cave in too soon: “Sometimes you have to be a Starker.”
6. Advice to the overly anxious: “Keep your powder dry. It’s not ‘Der Tag’ yet.”
5. Favorite statement using a double negative: “We don’t disagree.”
4. Advice on whether or not to make a proposal: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”
3. Endorsement of an acceptable financial package: “I believe we got the last nickel.”
2. Favorite reply to someone’s offer to buy lunch, dinner, or a cup of coffee: “Thanks for the offer. Can I have the money instead?”
1. Favorite recommended response to an outrageous demand by management: “We just tell them…‘Go scratch!’ ”
On October 1 the musicians of the Houston Symphony ratified a four-year contract that takes the orchestra through its centenary season in 2013. The new agreement gradually eliminates the furlough weeks musicians have been required to take since 2003 and provides scale increases for both permanent and extra players. In exchange for accepting caps on annual health care plan cost increases, the musicians now assume sole authority in the structure of the Houston Symphony’s health care plan, covering both musicians and staff.
The tenor of the bargaining sessions was established early with the support provided by a comprehensive statistical analysis originally conceptualized by Houston’s longtime attorney Mel Schwarzwald. The report detailed the economic losses of the Houston Symphony musicians since their 2003 strike, a degraded competitive position amongst our peer symphonies, and, most significantly, an unprecedented loss of orchestral talent over the past seven seasons. [Editor’s Note: The report, authored by Mel Schwarzwald and Joe Goldman and presented at the 2010 ICSOM Conference, is available to delegates at the ICSOM website.] The findings of the report produced a constructive effect on the bargaining sessions. These contract negotiations centered on what the organization could do to raise its competitive position based on a shared sense that the Houston Symphony could no longer cut its way to prosperity.
The Houston musicians are indebted to the insight of attorney Mel Schwarzwald, the supporting efforts of SSD Director Chris Durham, and the research compiled by SSD benefits analyst (and Detroit Symphony violinist) Joseph Goldman. The musicians’ success in these negotiations could not have been possible without the steadfast support of President Lovie Smith-Wright and Secretary-Treasurer Bob McGrew of the Houston Professional Musicians Association, Local 65-699.