At both the 2016 AFM convention in Las Vegas and the 2016 ICSOM Conference in Washington, DC, resolutions were adopted in support of substitute musicians receiving the same per-service base pay as the regularly contracted musicians in our orchestras.
I thought that it would be important to visit this topic three years later to see the progress that ICSOM has made in this area, as well as to provide a benchmark for the future.
My research included personally contacting each ICSOM delegate of our 52 member orchestras to ask about the current per-service base pay of their substitute and contract musicians. In some cases the AFM Local president or orchestra committee chair replied in order to confirm the information. Thank you to all who responded to my inquiries so that accurate data are published.
As of May 1, 2019, 31 of ICSOM’s 52 orchestras have parity in the per-service base pay between contract and substitute musicians: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Columbus Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Florida Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra, Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, MET Opera Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, New York City Ballet Orchestra, New York City Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony, San Diego Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Symphoria, and Utah Symphony.
While some currently do not have equality between the substitute and contract musician per-service pay rates, it is good to recognize noteworthy improvements that have occurred in this area by several ICSOM orchestras in their contract settlements since 2016. To note a few:
- Alabama Symphony Orchestra: Parity in the performance pay scale was reached as of the 2018–19 contract year. As for the rehearsal pay scale, the substitute musician per-service scale was increased with the goal of reaching 100% of ASO scale in the future.
- Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra: Over the course of the current CBA’s term (2017–2020), substitute musician per-service pay will increase from 70% to 85% of the contract player rate.
- Los Angeles Philharmonic: The substitute musician rate had been at 82.5% for many years, and recently moved from 85% to 90% over the term of the current five-year CBA (2017–18 to 2021–22).
- Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra: MSO substitute musicians currently receive 90% of the pay scale of the contract musicians. Beginning in the 2020–21 season, that increases to 95% (or $200 per service, whichever is greater). During the third and fourth years of this CBA, $200 per service will exceed 95%. This is the first time the MSO has progressed beyond the 90% concession made years ago.
- Minnesota Orchestra: At the beginning of this contract, the sub pay was at 90% of the weekly salary, with annual increases. Then, on the last day of the current contract (August 31, 2020), it will become 100%. This was put into place so that parity would be the starting position for the next negotiations.
- New Jersey Symphony Orchestra: Five years ago, NJSO substitute musicians made about 91% of the contracted musician base pay. Today they are at 96.4%. The goal is parity.
- Oregon Symphony Orchestra: Sub pay currently works out to be 76% of the per-service rate for contract musicians. Next season the effective contract-player rate will be lowered; however, the substitute musicians’ per-service rate will increase, raising the per-service rate to 82% of the contract players’ per-service average.
- Phoenix Symphony: The orchestra just settled a one-year contract with a 3% pay increase for contract musicians, but a 7% pay increase for the substitute musicians to narrow the discrepancy between the two groups of players.
- Virginia Symphony: A newly ratified CBA (April 2019) will mark the return of a match of the per-service rates between the regularly contracted and substitute musicians (beginning in year three (2020–21) of the agreement).
Commenting on this progress, AFM Symphonic Services Director Rochelle Skolnick said, “As a labor organization, one of the principles that drives the AFM is fair compensation for all musicians, no matter what work they do. Where musicians sit side-by-side on stage performing the same music under the same conditions, it only makes sense that they receive the same basic compensation. While every contract negotiation reflects the unique concerns of the bargaining unit, it is heartening to see so many musicians standing together to demand parity for their sisters and brothers who perform as subs and extras.”
A shining example of progress in this effort can be found with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2016 contract settlement. Not only did they achieve substitute musician parity, with the per-service pay for this group increasing from 85% to 100% of base scale, but they did so while the orchestra’s contract musicians took a 7.5% pay cut. “Our subs got a well-deserved pay increase,” said Micah Howard, PSO’s ICSOM Delegate.
While ICSOM is encouraged by the progress in this area, we know that there is room for improvement in achieving parity in pay for substitute musicians in our 52 orchestras. It is hoped, when visiting this topic in future years, that there will be even more ICSOM orchestras who are abiding by the initiative set forth by both ICSOM and AFM: equal pay for equal work. Thanks to all of the AFM Locals and ICSOM Negotiation Committees who are working together in support of this goal.
Note: the author is ICSOM president.
The Two Resolutions
From ICSOM’s 2016 conference (Washington, DC)
In Support of Substitute and Extra Musicians
Whereas, The Delegates to the 100th AFM Convention in June 2016 adopted Resolution #20, which seeks to achieve equal pay for substitute and extra musicians in salaried orchestra bargaining units, as well as their participation in the bargaining process; and
Whereas, Such conditions of unequal pay that currently exist are most often the result of demands by employers against the wishes of the bargaining unit; and
Whereas, Substitute and extra musicians are essential to the ongoing operation of any symphony, opera or ballet orchestra; and
Whereas, There exists no good reason for providing those musicians with any different wage than at least the scale wage on a pro rata basis; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the officers and delegates to the 2016 ICSOM Conference express their unqualified support for all musicians who try to make their living by performing the invaluable task of filling temporary vacancies and/or adding their talent to certain performances that require a larger ensemble; and be it further
Resolved, That the officers and delegates to the 2016 ICSOM Conference call on all orchestral employers to end the exploitation of our short-term brother and sister colleagues by this practice of unequal pay for equal work.
Submitted by the ICSOM Governing Board
Adopted on August 27, 2016
AFM Amended Resolution No. 20 Measures & Benefits (2016 Convention)
Extras & subs in orchestras
WHEREAS, Several of the AFM’s salaried orchestra bargaining units have collective bargaining agreements with their primary employers that pay substitute and extra musicians lower wages, on a per-service basis, than those paid to full-time members; and
WHEREAS, Very few of the AFM’s salaried orchestra bargaining units have collective bargaining agreements with their primary employers that provide benefits for substitute and extra musicians beyond payments into the AFM-EP Fund, and some provide no benefits at all to substitute and extra musicians, thereby further deepening the compensation inequality between full-time musicians and substitute and extra musicians, even though those musicians work under the same conditions and are held to the same standard of excellence by their supervisors as are full-time musicians; and
WHEREAS, Substitute and extra musicians who work with the AFM’s salaried orchestral bargaining units, unlike their full-time musician colleagues, generally have little or no protection against unjust termination (including constructive termination by their full-time colleagues); and
WHEREAS, Substitute and extra musicians who work with the AFM’s salaried orchestral bargaining units generally do not have the right to elect rank-and-file representation to the contract negotiations that determine their compensation and working conditions, nor do they generally have the right to ratify the collective bargaining agreements under which they work as substitute and extra musicians, in fundamental contradiction to the principles of union democracy and by contrast to the rights which the AFM has long granted virtually every other AFM member who works under a CBA; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That Article 20 be amended as follows:
NEW SECTION. As a matter of policy, musicians who work for full-time orchestral employers and their Locals are urged to negotiate and/or maintain parity in wages and benefits for substitute and extra musicians performing with those orchestras.
Further, in accordance with fundamental principles of union democracy and the Mission of the AFM, musicians who work for full-time orchestral employers and their Locals are encouraged to explore ways that substitute and extra musicians may participate in the bargaining process.
Submitted by former ICSOM Chairpersons Bradford Buckley and Robert Levine
Adopted on June 22, 2016