Orchestras cannot continue to embrace regressive tactics when it comes to making their business models work. Musicians cannot be outsourced to foreign call centers. We can’t (or shouldn’t) be replaced with robots or machines.
Our training doesn’t get cheaper, nor do our instruments, rents, and housing costs. But managements across the country seem to think that our salaries can shrink, or fail to keep pace with inflation, or be frozen, and it will make no difference to those of us performing in front of the public every week.
Finding new way to make the symphony orchestra an indispensable part of the the modern urban landscape is the way to bring orchestras forward. Fort Worth and Pittsburgh deserve orchestras that are paid commensurate to their skill level, and must be made aware of what having an orchestra of their caliber in their city means for their community.
Managers and conductors see constant increases in their pay “because that is what the market will bear”. Musicians seem to have no such market forces working on their behalf. That is why it is so important for we unionized musicians of the American Federation of Musicians to stick together.
In the latest issue of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) journal, Senza Sordino, the Oregon Symphony’s ICSOM delegate, piccolo player Zachariah Galatis, wrote eloquently of the ennui that accompanied our recent ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement. I won’t go into it, he describes everything quite well in the article, but I’ll just say this about how the settlement looks to me, in terms of respect to the musicians:
The musicians of an orchestra are the socks and underwear of the budget line items. Necessary, not exciting. Spend as little as you can get away with on them.
Is this the next big labor dispute after Minnesota and Hartford? It certainly is shaping up to be. The rhetoric from the orchestra’s management definitely seems to be from the same play book as those other orchestras. A strike authorization vote doesn’t necessarily mean a strike is unavoidable, but it does allow the players’ representatives to call a strike at any time. Let’s hope that this action on the part of the musicians will help the discussion to move along in a more positive direction – but somehow, I don’t think that will be the case.