On October 29 I had the opportunity to attend a rally in support of the San Antonio Symphony musicians on behalf of ICSOM. It was a chance for me to pass on the support of all ICSOM members for the SAS musicians, and to hear from those musicians directly.
The energy in the crowd was palpable, especially given that management had announced the cancellation of the musician’s health insurance the day before. Even while setting up, it was easy to feel the excitement and dedication of everyone involved, from those distributing T-shirts, to those crafting signs.
The evening began with a trumpet fanfare and a reminder of what is at stake in this fight, in stark contrast to the empty Tobin Center across the street. How heartbreaking it must be to return to your hall only to be told you cannot even walk on the sidewalk in front without being accused of trespassing.
After the fanfare came a set of speeches from myself, members of local organizations and government, the AFL-CIO, ICSOM Delegate Debbie Brooks (in town from Fort Worth), and AFM President Ray Hair. It was inspiring to hear from such a wide variety of people, and to know that these musicians are not in this fight alone.
Rallies like this are important for morale and are a chance to reinvigorate and rededicate everyone to the fight for a fair contract. It can be easy to give in to apathy or hopelessness in situations like these—it’s important to remind everyone why they, and we, are fighting back.
There is a clear connection between what’s happening in San Antonio and what’s happening across the country in the AFM and other Unions. Every orchestra in ICSOM should take note of what can happen when your management decides to put profit over product, or when they simply don’t seem to care about you at all.
What would you do in a situation like that? Would you simply let your managers walk all over you, or would you choose to fight like these musicians have? And, what does it say about our society in general, that wealthy members of our community will support spending hundreds of millions of public dollars building a concert hall, but resist paying for health insurance and fair wages?
Unions across the country continue to fight for fair contracts, just like in San Antonio. Everyone deserves a living wage, health care, a comfortable retirement, and respect, and we all have an obligation to fight anything less.