The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has affirmed the July 2011 decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the refusal of the Musical Arts Association (MAA) to bargain with the AFM over media issues. MAA, which operates the Cleveland Orchestra, had contended that two or more unions (in this case, the AFM and the Cleveland Federation of Musicians, Local 4—parent and local) may not serve as a joint collective-bargaining representative for a single unit of employees. Both the court and the NLRB rejected MAA’s contention and made clear that those collective bargaining representatives can divide their bargaining duties, either expressly or in practice, to accommodate local and national interests.
MAA was found to have violated federal labor law by refusing to bargain with the AFM over media issues. MAA is now required to post a notice at the worksite stating that it will “recognize … the AFM … and the Cleveland Federation of Musicians … as the joint collective-bargaining representatives of the established unit of musicians employed as members of The Cleveland Orchestra, with Local 4 having authority to bargain over the terms and conditions of employment related to live performances, rehearsals for live performances, local television and radio broadcasts; and the AFM having authority to bargain over the terms and conditions of employment pertaining to matters covered by the AFM’s: Symphony, Opera or Ballet Orchestra Audio-Visual Agreement (AV Agreement); Symphony, Opera or Ballet Orchestra Internet Agreement (Internet Agreement); and the Symphony, Opera or Ballet Orchestra Live Recording Agreement (Live Recording Agreement) such as the production and use or development of electronic media including CD’s, DVD’s, digital recording and the Internet.”
This case began in 2009 when MAA stated its intent to withdraw its recognition of the AFM as its bargaining partner for media despite a decades-old relationship. The AFM filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against MAA for its refusal to bargain with the AFM over the covered media. The NLRB twice found in favor of the AFM—once in Region 8 in Ohio and again upon MAA’s appeal to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. MAA appealed the NLRB’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which on May 17, 2012, ruled in favor of the AFM.
This decision should make it much easier at the local bargaining table when negotiating committees are faced with media proposals that cross the divide into issues covered by national agreements. The local, negotiating committee, and counsel can state with great certainty that those issues cannot be bargained locally and that the employer must contact the AFM’s President’s office to discuss working under the applicable national media agreement(s) for such work.