After a long and contentious negotiation, the American Federation of Musicians Negotiating Committee reached an accord for a successor Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). Unlike the prior agreement with individual employers, the new agreement is a multi-employer agreement applicable to all employer members of a newly-formed corporation named the Symphony, Opera, and Ballet Electronic Media Association (EMA). This negotiation took more than a year to reach its conclusion, from the early fall of 2013 until agreement was reached on December 12, 2014. The tentative agreement must still go through the ratification process, which is now underway. All ballots and orchestra vote tally sheets must be received by Deborah Newmark at the AFM New York offices prior to 5:00 p.m on April 1, 2015.
A brief summary of the history of the IMA will be helpful in understanding the IMA successor. Many readers will remember that bargaining of Symphony, Opera, and Ballet (SOB) media agreements was not formulaic when the first agreements were created. From the 1980s through about 1998 there was no formal multi-employer bargaining. An agreement was arrived at with a few interested employers and the resulting agreement was available for other employers to sign. From 1999 through 2006, some Symphony, Opera, and Ballet employers joined informal multi-employer groups, but these groups did not commit themselves to be bound to the new agreement prior to knowing the outcome of negotiations.
In recent history, for the 2004 Live Recording Agreement (LRA), the post-2006 Audio/Visual Agreement, and the 2008-2009 IMA negotiations, the Symphony, Opera, and Ballet employers formed a multi-employer group, which included a self-destruct option: employers, as part of the group, committed to the outcome of the negotiations, but the group’s authorization expired if no agreement was reached by a previously established authorization expiration date. The authorization expiration date was a unilateral decision made by the employers group, not by any accord with the AFM negotiating committee. This was a gamble the employers took that succeeded in regard to the LRA, but failed in the IMA negotiations.
In the course of the SOBAV-turned-IMA negotiations of 2008-2009, the two sides reached the 11th hour and came to agreement on 95% of the issues, but at that point the employers let their “authorizations” expire and walked away from the table. Subsequently the Cleveland Musical Arts Association led a campaign to force media negotiations with their AFM Local and not the AFM. This gambit failed at all levels of National Labor Relations Board and judicial proceedings and the AFM achieved conclusive rulings that it had jurisdiction over SOB media agreements. Following those rulings, a very successful campaign to sign individual employers to the AFM-drafted IMA was waged. Over 70 managers and their organizations became signatory to the IMA.
This brings us to the current IMA negotiations. In March of 2013, for the first time, the employers formed their own corporation, the EMA, in contrast to the informal multi-employer groups they had created earlier. The EMA is made up of 72 organizations, roughly evenly divided between former IMA signatories and non-signatories. They were all bound to sign a successor IMA. At our initial negotiation sessions, held in Chicago in December of 2013, the EMA tried to completely throw out the IMA and begin again on writing a new agreement from their set of positions and proposals. The AFM negotiating committee (which includes the ICSOM Media Committee and representatives of the ROPA Media Committee) was shocked and outraged at this attack. The EMA characterized its proposals as earth-shatteringly progressive, but in reality they were merely resurrecting a wish list of positions and proposals the employers have been bringing to media negotiations for over 15 years. The employers brought on board two manager media consultants to try to drive home these proposals. These same two consultants had been trying since 2009 to dissuade any employers from signing the IMA. The AFM negotiating team remained steadfast in the face of this attempt to destroy the very bargaining history and record of SOB media agreements.
The two sides met often for bargaining sessions in either New York or Chicago over the course of 2014. In the Chicago sessions of June 29–July 1, our committee reached the end of how far we believed we could move towards their positions and gave the EMA our final offer. No immediate response was made by the EMA and no more sessions were held for many months. In the fall of 2014 the EMA sent the AFM their last best final offer, which, after lengthy discussion and careful consideration, was turned down by the AFM. That is where the negotiation remained until December 2014, when both sides agreed to make an attempt at a final resolution. Both sides agreed to send smaller committees in an attempt to jump-start the discussion and find a way to reach agreement. After two and a half days of intense bargaining we did reach an agreement. It then took weeks of thrashing out the final language of what would be included in the new agreement.
The details of the agreement were sent out to all eligible AFM orchestra members as part of the ratification packets. The ratification process began in mid-February; so all eligible musicians have seen the details of the successor agreement.
The majority of the elements of the IMA remain intact, but here are some, though not all, of the additions or changes the successor IMA contains:
- The agreement will have a term from the date of ratification to June 30, 2017.
- The main agreement and the provisions and rates for radio broadcasts remain intact.
- In Live Audio recording, the percentages used in calculating up-front payments remain the same or increase when the employer elects not to pay tier payments.
- The number of minutes of music covered by the up-front payment shall be increased from 78 to 80 (in the case of symphonic recordings) and from 126 to 130 (in the case of opera recordings).
- In Non-Television Audio/Visual Products, rates are established for projects of thirty minutes or less and for 60 minutes or less. Payment for product of more than 60 minutes remains the same.
- News & Promotion provisions were expanded to help employers meet their needs in attempts to attract concertgoers, supporters and donors.
There is a new section in News & Promotion detailing guidelines for Volunteer Promotional Recordings.
- An additional new section in News & Promotion details guidelines for gifts to Donors, Corporate Sponsors and Subscribers.
- There is a new side letter Regarding Audio and Audio-Visual Recording with Non-Classical Featured Artists.
- Pension contributions to the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund are increased to 12%.
Other employers that did not join the EMA, whether or not they are currently signatories to the former IMA, will be able to sign the agreement as individual organizations directly with the AFM after it is ratified.
The new changes were arrived at after painstaking consideration. The AFM Media Negotiating Sub-Committee heard the concerns of employers and made careful choices in coming to agreement on all of those concerns. The ICSOM Media Committee, along with the ROPA Media Committee representatives, fully supports this agreement and endorses ratification.
I would like to thank the ICSOM Media Committee members for their hard work and absolute dedication to this negotiation: Dan Bauch, Boston Symphony; Paul Frankenfeld, Cincinnati Symphony; Steve Lester, Chicago Symphony; Cathy Payne, San Francisco Symphony; Bruce Ridge, North Carolina Symphony and ICSOM Chair; Peter Rofe, Los Angeles Philharmonic; Brian Rood, Kansas City Symphony and ICSOM President; Laura Ross, Nashville Symphony and ICSOM Secretary; and Fiona Simon, New York Philharmonic. Many thanks to the ROPA Media Committee members: John Michael Smith, Minnesota Opera and ROPA Media Committee Chair; Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, New Mexico Philharmonic and ROPA President; and Nancy Nelson, Houston Grand Opera and ROPA Vice President.
I extend deep thanks and appreciation to AFM President Raymond Hair, Jr., Legal Counsel Patricia Polach, SSD Director Jay Blumenthal, SSD Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Deborah Newmark, those Local Presidents who attended many sessions, and all the staff at the AFM that afforded the musicians committee the ability to assist the AFM at the highest level throughout the course of this negotiation.