Local 47 to Represent Musicians’ Institute Faculty

Volume C, No. 7/8July, 2000

Los Angeles Local 47 has won a hard-fought campaign to represent faculty at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, the first time the local will represent musicians in their teaching capacity for an employer. In an NLRB election on May 31, faculty members chose the union as their collective bargaining representative.

A rank-and-file organizing drive was touched off by efforts of the Institute’s new president, Herb Brooks, to have the instructors sign a personal contract under which they would agree to be removed from employee status and turned into “independent contractors.” It would have deprived them of the limited benefits they were receiving, require them to pay their own substitutes, and impose additional taxes on them with no offsetting increase in compensation. The contract was to be signed by the instructor only, not by management, and was subject to unilateral change by management at any time. The teachers were told that if they did not return the contract by a certain deadline, they would be fired.

This demand inspired some instructors who were also members of Local 47 to approach the union for help. Local 47 Business Representative Al Rubalcava referred them to the local’s vice-president, Richard Totusek, who explained the steps by which the local could obtain recognition as the faculty’s bargaining representative. The local called an open meeting for all interested instructors on March 29.

Despite management efforts to derail it (by sending three managers who sought to talk to the faculty before the meeting), a large number of faculty turned out and decided that unionism was the way to go. About 70 percent of the bargaining unit quickly signed cards, and Local 47 asked management for voluntary recognition, which was refused. Management also fired one of the chief organizers, tried to win away others with promises, and brought in a “labor consultant” to “educate” the faculty about the dangers of unionism. But despite all the pressure, the final vote was 53-38 in favor of the union.