Grievance Corner

Volume CII, No. 7/8July, 2002


Local 802 settled a grievance brought against the producers of the Broadway production of Mamma Mia. The two guitarists in that orchestra perform on sophisticated electronic instruments that are able to emulate the sounds of various guitar and amp combinations. Local 802 viewed the guitars as “electronic instruments” within the meaning of Article XIV of the Local 802/League of American Theatres and Producers collective bargaining agreement. Both guitarists were therefore due an electronic instrument premium of 25 percent over and above their base wage. The issue was settled just prior to arbitration, when management agreed to increase the premiums paid the two musicians retroactive to the start of the New York production.


A grievance over unpaid wages and benefits to musicians of the New York Pops for a Symphonic Limited Pressing recording that took place in January was settled on May 22.

The AFM Symphonic Limited Pressing agreement gives symphonic employers who are signatory to a local collective bargaining agreement the ability to request one such recording per year, subject to approval by vote of the musicians. Requests for additional recordings in a year must be made directly to the AFM and are granted on a case-by-case basis.

New York Pops management submitted a request to record an evening performance on Monday, Jan. 28, to Local 802 at the last minute, on the previous Friday. The union and the orchestra committee agreed to contact all New York Pops rostered musicians to arrange the required vote. Only about half of the roster was actually performing the engagement to be recorded, thereby requiring that the rest of the orchestra members be contacted over the weekend if the recording was to be considered for approval.

The Symphonic Limited Pressing agreement expressly states that “All members of the symphony orchestra, whether called to the engagement or not, shall be paid for each basic session call, and shall not be called or required to attend if they are not scheduled to perform.”

Both the union and the committee made this contractual requirement clear to management, and musicians voted to approve the recording with that understanding. Pops management expressed appreciation that the union had administered their request on such short notice. However, that appreciation was short lived. Management took issue with the requirement to pay rostered musicians who had not played the recording, even though it was made well aware of this rule prior to the recording. Management was willing to pay musicians who had not been initially called to the engagement but they refused to pay rostered musicians who had turned down the engagement, although they had not been informed of the additional media work involved when the offer of work was made.

It should be noted that, although the Symphonic Limited Pressing agreement is very clear in its requirement that all musicians be paid, the AFM has in the past observed a policy of allowing employers not to pay rostered musicians who declined the offer of work – but only if the musician was informed of the additional media work when the initial work offer was made. That obviously was not the case here, since the Pops’ request to record the engagement came just days before the performance. As a result of this dispute, the AFM is reconsidering that policy for all orchestras.

Local 802 was determined to seek resolution of this dispute to the full extent of the contract’s grievance procedures, including arbitration if necessary. On May 22 the grievance was settled and the New York Pops agreed to pay all rostered musicians the wages and benefits they were entitled to under the contract. Achieving a full settlement of this grievance was particularly important since national union standards were at stake, and ultimately prevailed.