Freelance Musicians Authorize Strike

Volume CII, No. 3March, 2002

Members of all the freelance orchestras attended a strike authorization meeting on Jan. 22, to hear a report on the slow progress of negotiations. While the New York Pops had reached agreement in December, followed by the Little Orchestra Society, ensembles such as the Brooklyn Philharmonic and American Composers Orchestra were continuing to refuse the economics of the Pops agreement and were proposing agreements that would undercut its terms and conditions.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing the committees and the union to call a strike, if this was deemed necessary. In light of the vote, and the solidarity it reflected among musicians throughout the freelance field, some employers returned to the table “accepting” the basic economics of the Pops agreement while simultaneously asking for givebacks that the musicians and union found unacceptable.

However, as bargaining continues, several additional orchestra have signed on to the agreement.

The decision to seek an industry-wide strike authorization was reached at a Jan. 9 meeting in which freelance concert committee members reviewed the status of negotiations. As reported in previous Allegros, nearly every management had requested a one-year extension of the prior contract, freezing all terms and conditions, in the wake of Sept. 11.

The union’s counterproposal offered a one-year wage and benefits freeze, followed by economic rehabilitation in years two and three. It also included non-economic proposals covering issues that had not been achieved in past agreements. Although the Pops agreed to that approach in early December, most orchestras remained unwilling to accept its basic provisions.

The negotiations cover about 500 musicians in the following orchestras: American Composers Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Bronx Arts Ensemble, Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Long Island Philharmonic, Little Orchestra Society, New York Chamber Symphony, The New York Pops, Opera Orchestra of New York, Queens Symphony Orchestra and the Riverside Symphony.