Seeking Solutions to the Pamphlet B Dilemma
Volume CI, No. 9September, 2001
The AFM Pamphlet B Touring Theatrical Agreement expires on August 31. Its original term was April 11, 1999, through March 31, 2001, but it was extended for a five-month period by mutual agreement of the parties, the AFM and the League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc.
Pamphlet B is the contract which covers terms and conditions of employment in touring musicals. Historically – and currently – it covers only musicians touring with the show. It does not cover local musicians engaged to perform the musicals in the cities or local jurisdictions visited. Local musicians are engaged either under a local collective bargaining agreement (approximately 21 locals have such agreements) or under locally promulgated scales (locals which fall into this category include such important cities as Nashville and Houston).
According to Mark Heter, Director of the AFM’s Touring, Theatre and Booking Division, there were 12 touring musicals employing musicians as of Aug. 1. (Several other shows had closed down for the summer and plan to reopen.) Five of these current productions carry a full complement of musicians and, therefore, add no local members in the various cities – except where there is a local minimum, in which event touring musicians are often laid off. The other shows do add musicians; approximately 70 to 85 musicians are currently being engaged in local jurisdictions for all shows under the present schedule.
Around half of the locals with CBAs have some form of staff minimums negotiated into their contracts with local producers, presenters or theatre owners. These provisions vary, but have generally mandated orchestra sizes ranging from eight up to 23 musicians.
In 1991, under enormous pressure from the League, a provision was negotiated into the AFM Pamphlet B touring contract that placed rather severe restrictions on local minimums as they might affect Pamphlet B productions performed in these cities. In essence, it limited local minimums for future Pamphlet B orchestra sizes to no more than 16 musicians.
Since Pamphlet B productions dominate these local markets, this provision greatly restricted the negotiating options of these locals, both directly as it regards orchestra size and indirectly as it affects the entire negotiation. Local 77 (Philadelphia) promptly filed a lawsuit against the Federation, challenging this provision, and several other locals supported the action. However, the suit was ultimately decided in the AFM’s favor and theatre locals have been living with the situation for the last ten years.
Nobody likes it. Local musicians are angry that the combination of smaller orchestras and larger traveling contingents are depriving them of work that had previously been available to them. Touring musicians, who regularly get laid off when going into certain venues, find themselves on the road with no immediate income, unable to return to apartments and homes that have been subleased.
The possibility clearly exists that the AFM’s solidarity at the bargaining table could be undermined by these potentially competing interests within our own house. To address this, the AFM and Local 802 have been trying to create a situation under which all musicians performing on Pamphlet B productions, both touring and local, will be engaged under the terms of a single agreement. Preliminary discussions aimed at finding a way to accomplish this were begun in Las Vegas at the time of the AFM Convention in June and continued in Chicago in early August. It is an extremely complex and difficult task that will require everyone’s cooperation – but at this point, I’m hopeful that it can be done.
PAMPHLET B AND BROADWAY
Given that Pamphlet B’s terms and conditions are, by definition, inapplicable to productions within Local 802’s jurisdiction – this agreement was created when the League was known as “The League of New York Theatres and Producers, Inc.” and was for “out of town” presentations – what is our place in this, and why are we involved?
There are two major reasons: (1) more than half of the musicians touring with these shows are Local 802 members and deserve a “local” voice at the AFM’s bargaining table, and (2) it is no longer possible or advisable to think of this agreement and its negotiation as separate from the Broadway contract in any practical way. In fact, it has been obvious for some time now that the League is viewing these two agreements as elements in one seamless approach to the union. This attitude would represent a fundamental shift in this employer’s approach to both Local 802 and the AFM.
Of even greater concern is what seems to be a heightened emphasis on the adversarial part of our relationship, reflected in a recent management threat to explore the separation of conductors and assistant conductors from the rest of the bargaining unit. (The mechanism for this is called a “unit clarification” petition. It is pursued by means of a request that the National Labor Relations Board declare conductors and assistant conductors to be supervisory employees and, therefore, ineligible for bargaining unit status.)
This, together with what appears to be an increasing willingness to rely on the advice of the most militantly anti-union of the theatre owners, has cast a cloud over our relationships. One would hope that the action the League is contemplating will not occur, that saner minds will prevail, and that the union and management will be successful in fashioning a new Pamphlet B agreement. Beyond that, there needs to be an understanding that honest differences can be resolved without all-out war. I hope it is not too late for this to happen.
None of these developments bode well for the next Broadway negotiation. If we are to successfully resist efforts to fundamentally alter any of our working conditions, we must be focused in our goals and unified in an intelligent approach. It might not be a bad idea for Broadway musicians to begin putting aside some of their wages. March of 2003 is not that far off, and we may be in for a long, tough campaign.