“It’s total entertainment!” is how the Salute to Vienna orchestra advertised itself at the beginning of its tour early this year. But musicians found out that “total entertainment” really translated into “underscale wages” and “no benefits”. The touring orchestra, made up of union musicians mainly from New York and Philadelphia, aims to “indulge its live audiences with time-honored classics like ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ and selections from ‘Die Fledermaus’ in triumphant performances across North America,” according to its web site. Unfortunately for the musicians, these “triumphant performances” were set to be non-union, with underscale wages and no health or pension payments.
After some breakneck organizing from Local 802, negotiations with management and contractor Norm Spielberg resulted in an agreement whereby the orchestra would pay the union’s freelance scale for the New York New Year’s Day tour date. The agreement was finally signed on New Year’s Eve, less than 24 hours before the performance was scheduled to begin at Alice Tully Hall. Now, over three months later, the union still hasn’t received health and pension payments for the musicians.
“This clear-cut example of management breaking an agreement is one of the reasons we insist on employers signing union contracts,” said Joe Eisman, director of organizing. “Musicians have already waited months for their health and pension payments. They shouldn’t have to wait a day longer, and we’ll do everything in our power not only to make sure musicians receive their benefits, but also to uphold the scales for which musicians have fought so hard over the years to achieve.”
At press time, the union was considering all of its options, including arbitration. Musicians who have any further information about this broken contract should call the Organizing Department.