ROPA Conference Report

Volume CIV, No. 10October, 2004

Lenny Leibowitz

In perhaps the only hotel in Las Vegas without a casino, the 2004 ROPA conference began on Aug. 10.

There are currently about 68 member orchestras and a substantial number of them were represented in the large conference room at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

While day one was devoted to negotiating workshops, every day contained reports of specific orchestra negotiations interspersed at various times. These well-trained delegates were, for the most part, able to be concise and to the point, so that there was very little droning or endless “they said,” “we said.”

On Wednesday, the delegates watched an instructive film entitled “One Day Longer,” about the HERE strike at the Frontier Casino in Las Vegas.

After a new delegate orientation in the morning, the conference had its official opening in the afternoon with welcoming remarks by ROPA President Barbara Zmich. The balance of that day consisted of various reports by officers followed that evening by a dinner hosted by AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas).

On Thursday, the morning session included a very informative report on electronic media led by Jennifer Munday, ROPA vice president and chair of the Electronic Media Committee; Debbie Newmark, the director of the AFM’s Symphonic Electronic Media Department; and Patricia Polach, legal counsel to the AFM and ROPA. Polach’s excellent review of the digital downloading negotiation was illuminating.

That presentation was followed by a discussion on organizing, both internal as well as external, by Janice Galassi, the newly-appointed director of the AFM’s Organizing and Education Department, and Gene Tournour, organizer extraordinaire.

That afternoon the delegates heard greetings and reports from such dignitaries as Tom Lee, Florence Nelson, and representatives of the player conferences, followed by reports on the ASOL Conference, and the Health Care Task Force.

On Friday morning, at a pre-conference breakfast, counselor Polach gave yet another fascinating talk about the history of the AFM recording agreements.

The plenary session began at 9:30 with a workshop on arbitration, by Peg Leibowitz, arbitrator and labor law professor, and her assistant.

The afternoon began with more orchestra reports, and an address by Henry Fogel, president of ASOL, who offered ex-officio seats on the ASOL board to the chairs of ICSOM and ROPA, and the president of the AFM. A lively Q-and-A ensued!


Thereafter Peg Leibowitz divided the delegates into five groups consisting of a union team, an employer team, each with representatives and one witness, and a group of three arbitrators for each team. Each group was assigned an identical case study and instructed on ways to prepare and present their case in a mock arbitration to be held the following morning.

After much preparation that afternoon, and even early the following morning, Saturday began with the teams engaging in mock arbitrations in separate groups.

When the cases were concluded the five groups of arbitrators met, and all returned to the plenary session to announce and explain their decisions. Amazingly, all five trios of arbitrators found in favor of the union side!

The balance of the day included invaluable wage chart information from Eric Beers and Ron Bauers and a discussion of education programs in ROPA orchestras by Nathan Kahn.

The very successful conference ended on Saturday afternoon.