Pops and Union Reach Agreement

Contract may be template for other freelance orchestras

Volume CVIII, No. 2February, 2008

Jay Blumenthal

Click for larger image.
Photo by Steve J. Sherman

On Dec. 21, a tentative agreement for a new contract was reached with the management of the New York Pops. Negotiations were long and laborious, having begun last spring. Traditionally, it has been the agreement with the New York Pops that sets the economic terms for the classical concert freelance field.

“I’m very pleased with our agreement,” committee chair Daryl Goldberg told Allegro. “Not only did we achieve financial increases over three years, we now have a shortfall fund available to help musicians stay on the health plans. Having a good, longstanding relationship with management was a key aspect to this negotiation. Everyone on the committee worked hard on problem solving and we had excellent guidance from the union.”

The new three-year deal contains significant increases in wages and benefits which are retroactive to Sept. 11, 2007, when the old contract expired.

  • In the old contract, wages were $225 per performance. They will increase to $230 (2007-08), $240 (2008-09) and $252 (2009-10). This represents a 12 percent increase over three years.
  • Rehearsal wages paid $44 per hour in the old contact. They will increase to $45 (2007-08), $47 (2008-09) and $50 (2009-10). This represents a 13.6 percent increase over three years.
  • In the third year of the new contract, pension will increase to 15 percent from the current 14 percent.
  • Cartage for cello, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, contrabassoon and tuba paid $19 per round trip in the old contract. In the new contract, cartage will hold at $19 for 2007-08, then increase to $20 (2008-09) and $21 (2009-10). Double bass cartage paid $31 in the old contract; it will also hold at $31 for 2007-08, then increase to $33 (2008-09) and $35 (2009-10).


Health contributions were originally $30 per performance and $10 per rehearsal in the old contract, with a weekly cap of $103.29.

Due to increased health costs, the trustees of the plan had found it necessary to raise the rates, which resulted in health contributions of $39.73 per performance and $13.25 per rehearsal, with a weekly cap of $111.24.

The new health contribution rates per performance will be $41 (2007-08), $42.50 (2008-09) and $44 (2009-10).

Rehearsal health contributions will pay $13.75 (2007-08), $14.25 (2008-09) and $14.75 (2009-10). The new weekly cap will be $115 (2007-08), $119 (2008-09) and $123 (2009-10).

In the event the trustees raise the health fund contribution rate during the term of this contract, the employer’s resulting increase in the contribution rate will be capped at $50 per performance and $16 per rehearsal.

Additionally, the Pops will create a $5,000 health benefits shortfall fund. The purpose of this fund is to aid members of the orchestra who have fallen short in employer health benefit contributions and have therefore not qualified for Plan A or Plan B.

On a first come-first served basis, members who fall short in employer contributions for Plan A or Plan B may request a contribution from the employer shortfall fund on their behalf up to a maximum of $500 annually.

Once the fund is depleted, no additional shortfall requests can be honored for that year. Replenishment of the shortfall fund will take place on Oct. 1 of each year of the contract, up to a maximum of $5,000 per year.


Previously, musicians were required to perform 50 percent of all subscription service sets in each year of the contract.

Beginning with the October 2008 season, musicians on the primary hiring list will be required to perform 50 percent of all subscription service sets over two consecutive years. In years where there are five subscription sets, the Carnegie Hall Family Concert or New York Pops Birthday Gala (if offered and played) will be counted as a sixth subscription set for the purpose of meeting the attendance requirement, if needed.

Members of the New York Pops Orchestra Committee were Daryl Goldberg (chair), Lou Bruno, Yana Goichman, Chris Ims and Sue Panny. Also participating in the negotiations were myself, Concert Rep Karen Fisher, and 802 attorney Harvey Mars.