The Atlanta Ballet musicians of Local 148-462 have been on strike since late September in a battle with their management over the use of taped music, service guarantees and pension contributions. To date, tentative agreement has been reached on the first two items but, although management agrees “in concept” to the need for pension, it can’t/won’t commit itself to any amount – in the third year of the agreement.
In retaliation to our strike, management used taped music for the first production of the year. Ticket sales fell off, and they canned the canned music.
For the second production, management – while still claiming they had “not enough money for the pension” – found the money to hire replacement musicians, pay their transportation to Atlanta, provide hotel rooms, and pay them per diem and wages. This management won’t pay their own musicians a pension contribution on an annual $4,000 salary, but they will pay non-union musicians travel, food and hotel.
This is outrageous in and of itself. But what is even worse is that musicians are walking across the picket line and replacing the Atlanta Ballet musicians, some of whom have played for the ballet for up to 20 years.
The Atlanta Ballet is on the International Unfair List. Under AFM bylaws, members of the Federation “shall not render musical services for organizations, establishments or people who have been placed on the List.” Any member who violates this is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 or expulsion from the AFM. Ignorance will not be accepted, as it is the responsibility of a Federation member to ascertain that the organization has not been placed on the Unfair List.
Management and conductors are calling music teachers and symphony musicians around the country, looking for people who are desirous of “good experience.” However, the real experience that a scab musician will have is to learn how angry other musicians will be when uninformed and naive people have stolen their livelihood. As long as you or your students walk across the picket line and do this work, the ballet’s management will not have any compulsion to sit down and make a deal with us.
This is the first time that nonunion musicians have replaced an entire orchestra. Management knows the amateur orchestras and universities where this is encouraged, and students show up from these institutions regularly. If it is successful here, it could happen to you next.
If you are approached for a job or recommendations, say “NO.” Use the opportunity to inform others about the strength of the union, the protection of jobs and the true meaning of the statement that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Florence Nelson is the Director of the AFM’s Symphonic Services Department