Federal NLRB Rules Against Realtime’s Machine

Virtual orchestra ban legal and binding

Volume CIV, No. 7/8July, 2004

On May 19, the federal office of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. denied the appeal of the virtual orchestra machine company, Realtime Music Solutions Inc., upholding the decision of the regional director of NLRB Region 29.

Realtime had filed an unfair labor practice charge against Local 802 and the Opera Company of Brooklyn for entering into an agreement banning the use of virtual orchestra machines asserting that the union was illegally preventing the company from doing business.

The regional board disagreed.

In its March 30 decision, Regional Director Alvin Blyer stated:

“Your charge alleges that the union and the Opera Company of Brooklyn (OCB), entered into an unlawful agreement whereby OCB agreed to cease doing business with Realtime Music Solutions (the charging party). The investigation established that the union and OCB entered into an agreement that contained a lawful work preservation objective concerning OCB’s use of the Sinfonia orchestra machine.”

Realtime appealed the dismissal of the charge to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.

The NLRB denied the appeal and wrote:

“The investigation did not establish that the union’s agreement with the Opera Company of Brooklyn violated Section 8(e) of the [National Labor Relations] Act. In that regard, and contrary to your assertions on appeal, the evidence indicated that the agreement had the primary and lawful objective of preserving bargaining unit work that is not only fairly claimable by the union, but also is currently being performed by and has been performed by employees in the past.”

As a result of Realtime’s refusal to accept the regional board’s ruling, the decision by the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. now opens the door for similar agreements to be made throughout the United States.

“This ruling is a win for live music everywhere,” said Local 802 President David Lennon. “We are extremely pleased that the NLRB, once again, dismissed this unwarranted charge and recognized the fact that the Sinfonia is a machine that replaces live music. This decision will have far-reaching implications for live music on Broadway, touring shows, and elsewhere proving that there is no comparison between a living, breathing orchestra and plugging in a machine.”

In addition to the OCB agreement and the 10-year ban achieved at the Variety Arts Theatre last April, 802’s successful campaign to promote live music is now resulting in voluntary bans on the machine.

Among the employers who have agreed to ban the virtual orchestra machine are the National Black Theatre, Classic Stage Company, Vineyard Theatre and, most recently, the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center.