On April 23 – after nearly a year of negotiation and 13 months after expiration of the previous agreement – the AFM and the League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc., reached tentative agreement on terms and conditions of a successor traveling and touring theatrical agreement, subject to rank-and-file ratification.
The process was both complicated and difficult. For over a decade now an increasing friction between touring Pamphlet B musicians and their locally-bargained counterparts has been evident, chiefly over issues of the distribution of work and the timing of local actions during labor disputes. Touring musicians, many of them Local 802 members, have felt that, once engaged for a musical production, the work in all venues should be theirs. They have, it is argued, given up much in order to accommodate a demanding travel/work schedule; in many cases they have sublet the living space in their home cities for the duration of the tour. Once this work has been accepted, they do not believe it should be subject to layoff to accommodate local contractual requirements to engage a specific number of local musicians. (They have not argued for the elimination of minimums, but for travelers to be included in such minimums.)
Local musicians, on the other hand, maintain that their employment has a decades-long history and has come to be an expected, crucial component of musicians’ incomes in Pamphlet B cities across the U.S. and Canada. As some touring orchestras got larger in the late ’80s and early ’90s, this problem became exacerbated.
The AFM has been faced with this situation for the past three Pamphlet B negotiations. This time around, it decided to address the problem head on. In an effort to reconcile the two positions within the organization, the Federation invited representatives of both the touring musicians and of seven of the larger locals where Pamphlet B tours perform to the bargaining table.
A key piece of the process was the formation of a 13-member negotiation team consisting of the AFM President, Vice-President from Canada and Secretary-Treasurer; two rank-and-file representatives of touring musicians; the Theatre Musicians Association President; and the presidents of Local 5 (Detroit), Local 6 (San Francisco), Local 10-208 (Chicago), Local 47 (Los Angeles), Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Local 149 (Toronto) and Local 802. (Toronto was represented by its Executive Director.)
The AFM Department of Touring, Theatre and Booking then formulated proposals for touring musicians while a group of local officers, headed by the seven local representatives on the negotiating committee, created proposals covering basic wages and minimums for local musicians working Pamphlet B productions. These latter proposals contained only two items: a proposal for a multi-tiered wage system and a proposal for minimums, which would have required Local 802 minimums in the five busiest cities – Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston.
As with most initial efforts, this negotiation was not without its difficulties, and it was ultimately only partially successful.
First and foremost it needs to be understood that the League, in fighting to eliminate minimums, repeatedly played its trump card – the mechanical replacement of live musicians by means of such devices as the Virtual Pit Orchestra or the Maestro Orchestral Synthesis Technology (MOST). There are, of course, several ironies in management’s minimums position.
First of all, the argument has so far been based on their claim to need full and unfettered artistic discretion. They make this argument despite the fact that the artists are represented not by the League, but by unions: either Local 802, the AFM, Actors’ Equity, the Directors Guild or the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. And in all of Local 802’s discussions with those supposedly involved in artistic decisions, the musicians on the creative teams have invariably urged us to do all within our power to maintain minimums. Second, how management gets from an artistic argument regarding live music in live theatre to the use of the Virtual Pit Orchestra would seem to be a mysterious and tortured process.
Within that framework, we were nevertheless able to achieve gains for touring musicians. And in at least one area, that of per diem, a substantial gain was made.
- We have a four-year agreement with wage increases of 2 percent in the first year (to be paid retroactively), 2.5 percent in the second and 3 percent in both the third and fourth years.
- Per diem payments will now be at parity with Actors’ Equity, a provision we have been attempting to achieve for more than 10 years. This was a major victory.
- For the first time, sick leave is provided for – at the rate of three days a year.
- Payment will now be made to keyboard players or percussionists for load in and load out ($70 per engagement).
- Rehearsal rates are to increase by 5 percent upon ratification.
Finally, in a victory for the League, a “no strike” clause was agreed to for the first time. This will no doubt seriously affect future local negotiations.
ON THE LOCAL SCENE
Unfortunately we did not do as well in our efforts to integrate local musicians into the agreement. Both proposals involving local musicians were buried under the League’s onslaught against “walkers,” “understudies” or “substitutes,” as they are called in various cities. In the end, the proposals were set aside and we agreed to a provision resembling the local agreement on minimums currently in effect between the Chicago local and the ClearChannel company. This provision was seen as slightly more favorable to the union than a similar agreement between the Philadelphia local and the Shubert Organization. (As it turned out, other locals had also reached agreements on a case-by-case basis regarding minimums exceptions.)
The important section of the new provision reads:
A. Upon expiration of any local agreement in effect on January 29, 1992, where there is an existing minimum number of musicians contained therein, the local union may continue to set minimums in collective bargaining, provided that those minimums shall not exceed 16 local union musicians for Pamphlet B Touring Theatrical Musicals, subject to Paragraphs B-[D] below.
B. For engagements of one week or less, local minimums will not apply to tours that are traveling under Pamphlet B except when local augmentation is required, local musicians shall be employed.
C. For engagements of more than one week and up to six weeks, no local agreement shall require the engagement of more local musicians than called for by the specific Pamphlet B production, minus up to five musicians traveling under this agreement.
D. For engagements of more than six weeks, no local agreement shall require the engagement of more local musicians than called for by the specific Pamphlet B production, minus up to three musicians traveling under this agreement (emphasis added)
How this will affect our negotiations in 2003 will be discussed in a future report. Suffice it to say that the full burden of maintaining the current orchestra sizes now seems to fall on Local 802.
MINIMUMS: A CLARIFICATION
Information in my last President’s Report seemed to incorrectly indicate that, sometime between 1966 and 1972, the minimums at eleven Broadway theatres increased from 25 to 26 musicians. Former President John Glasel has written reminding me that for the 1963-66 agreement the conductor position was not included in the minimum, while by 1972 it was. I apologize for the lack of clarity.