Three More Orchestras Reach Agreement

Freelance Negotiations Update

Volume CII, No. 3March, 2002

Several additional orchestras had reached agreements with Local 802 as this issue went to press. The American Composers Orchestra, Opera Orchestra of New York and Queens Symphony Orchestra each agreed to three-year contracts containing the major economic provisions of the New York Pops agreement, maintaining the level playing field that has prevailed in the freelance arena (see highlights of these latest agreements below).

The non-economic provisions of the Pops agreement, where applicable, were accepted by each ensemble, and each contract also addressed individual issues. All of the agreements run concurrently.

While agreements were achieved with Opera Orchestra and Queens with little difficulty, the ACO contract was reached only hours before an imminent strike, allowing the rehearsal for a Philip Glass gala concert at Carnegie Hall to go forward.

A pattern for the current negotiations had been set when the New York Pops reached agreement early in December. The Little Orchestra Society was the second, on Jan. 11. All of the new contracts expire on Sept. 11, 2004. Six remain to be resolved.

Highlights of Latest Freelance Agreements


Excused rehearsal releases will be increased from one to two per season, with the proviso that management continue its liberal past practice of granting such releases. An important addition is the incorporation of the New York Pops touring language into the agreement. On the issue of Librarian, it was agreed that such work, if done by anyone other than management, must be paid at music prep scales. As in the Pops agreement, there are no attendance requirements in the first year, and its provisions governing working conditions and recording were adopted. The union agreed to allow OONY to press a CD of a recent performance, with all proceeds to go to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Fund.

The ratification vote was to begin Feb. 26, with the ballot box open for 24 hours. The negotiating committee included Valerie Levy (chair), Lawrence Benz, Lauren Goldstein-Stubbs, Christine Ims and Eugene Moye.


Each musician’s right to take an unpaid personal day will be increased from one to two. Such release shall no longer be subject to approval. A memorandum between Queens and Local 802 covering wages and benefits for educational services was renewed, subject to the same percentage increases as the collective bargaining agreement. QSO also adopted the Pops provisions covering Librarian, working conditions and recording. There will be no attendance requirements in the first year.

Local 802 granted the right to broadcast one concert per year on QPTV (Queens Public Television), provided that QSO adheres to the union’s news broadcast guidelines for all additional broadcast material: Upon 24 hours advance notice to the union, no more than 20 minutes total taping is permitted, of which only three minutes containing no complete movement or work may be broadcast.

QSO may also schedule one benefit performance per season. Participation in such concerts shall be optional. However, if a musician chooses to participate, s/he will receive no wages but will get a health benefit contribution.

The ratification vote was set for Feb. 13-14. Negotiating committee members were Andrew Seligson (chair), Frank Donaruma, Laurance Fader, Jules Hirsh and David Moore.


Until an eleventh-hour agreement was reached, ACO management had maintained that it would only accept the basic economics of the Pops deal in exchange for eliminating its longstanding overscale clause. This proposal for givebacks was unacceptable to the union, particularly since its proposal included a one-year wage freeze.

An emergency meeting with the orchestra was held two days before rehearsals were to begin for the Philip Glass gala concert at Carnegie Hall. Musicians overwhelmingly supported the negotiating team’s decision to implement its authority to call a strike if a satisfactory agreement was not achieved by the Friday morning rehearsal. The following day, all musicians were informed that, although further discussions with management had taken place, the parties could not reach an agreement and a strike appeared to be inevitable. Musicians were instructed not to go to rehearsal the following morning unless the 802 hotline indicated that an agreement had been reached and signed.

Shortly after midnight, an agreement was finally reached and musicians were informed that the morning rehearsal would take place. A ratification meeting was held after the rehearsal. The terms of the agreement are as follows:

The economic wages and benefits of the New York Pops agreement were adopted. For concerts produced by ACO, the personal leave clause shall be amended to remove the requirement that section players obtain permission for such leave. Permission for rehearsal releases shall not be unreasonably denied to principal players. Such releases are in addition to a musician’s right to take time off for an audition.

Working conditions outlined in the Pops agreement were also accepted, as was the stipulation that there would be no attendance requirements in the first year. The parties agreed to meet to discuss and attempt to agree on terms and conditions covering Educational Services and Librarian. Should the parties fail to agree, the matter shall be submitted to arbitration.

The union was successful in maintaining the overscale clause in the contract. A temporary allowance was made to waive overscale in concerts using more than 14 musicians in the new Zankel Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. Concerts utilizing 14 or fewer musicians shall maintain all premium and overscale payments. A “sunset” clause stipulates that this provision expires at the end of the agreement.

This provision also stipulates that ACO management represents that Zankel Auditorium performances shall not replace any regular Carnegie Hall concerts. It was of great importance to musicians that management indicate its intention to supplement, rather than diminish, the Carnegie Hall season with concerts in the Zankel Auditorium, which is scheduled to open next year.

Lastly, management shall be allowed to broadcast locally, for up to a total of 2½ hours per season, a concert or work that had not been previously paid for, without additional compensation.

The orchestra overwhelmingly ratified the agreement on Feb. 3, just prior to its Carnegie Hall performance. The negotiating committee was made up of Robert Biddlecome (chair), Eugene Moye, Dorothy Strahl, Sander Strenger and Mary Whitaker.

The orchestra committees were assisted by 802 counsel Lenny Leibowitz, Financial Vice-President Tina Hafemeister, Assistant Director David Lennon and Concert Rep Joe Delia.