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ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow’s address to the AFM Convention

June 17, 2019

Thanks for having me, and thank you to the AFM and all the Locals who support our ICSOM musicians and help to make our orchestras a success. I especially would like to thank Rochelle Skolnick, SSD Director, for her outstanding work with all our ICSOM and ROPA orchestras. She is a tremendous asset to us and to the AFM (someone hire that women an assistant!). And to both Rochelle and Debbie Newmark, I thank you for the seemingly endless months of negotiating that went into our new Integrated Media Agreement. 

As you can see in the article by ICSOM President Paul Austin in the Senza Sordino on your table, we have made good progress since the last AFM Convention towards returning pay equity to substitute and extra musicians in our orchestras. Former ICSOM Chairs Brad Buckley and Robert Levine introduced Resolution 20 at the 2016 Convention to return parity to our subs and extras. ICSOM has encouraged its orchestras to negotiate equal pay for equal work, and our musicians continue to respond to that request at the bargaining table.

In conjunction with initiatives begun by the League of American Orchestras with funding from the Mellon Foundation, ICSOM, ROPA and Symphonic Services are taking a serious look at Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in our orchestras. Since the introduction of screens to the audition process we have made great progress in hiring women but we are woefully behind in hiring minorities, specifically Latinx and other people of color. Two initiatives have been launched, The Catalyst Fund, which awards grants to orchestras to study diversity at all levels—Board, management, staff, conductors, repertoire and orchestra; and the National Alliance for Audition Support, the brainchild of the League, Sphinx Organization in Detroit, New World Symphony in Miami and Mellon Foundation. NAAS gives grant money and audition training to young professional artists of color on the audition circuit. For the first time, the AFM, ROPA, and ICSOM are working with the League to make these programs a success.

We have had mostly successful negotiations in the past few years—progressive contracts and a number of early settlements. But as you have heard from Chicago, the fight goes on. I want to give special thanks to Terryl Jares and Local 10-208 for the tremendous activism and support they have shown with two orchestras out on the street this year. Thanks to Local 802 for the rally they organized at Lincoln Center in support of the Chicago Symphony, and to the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, who refused to cross the CSO picket line while on tour and did not play in Orchestra Hall. A lifetime of thanks to Matt Comerford, who is retiring this year. He has served on the ICSOM Governing Board, as ICSOM Media Committee Co-Chair and he has been a dedicated activist and a warrior for the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra for 38 years.

As the majority of wealth in our national economy flows upwards into the hands of a few, ICSOM is seeing a change in the balance of power in our non-profit sector of the music business. As orchestras continue to generate less earned income, we become increasingly dependent on endowments and donations. This is changing the leverage points we have traditionally used in negotiations. Boards and managers seem to have no qualms about leaving musicians locked out until they come to heel. There is no commitment to the orchestra and no commitment to the music we provide to our communities. The bottom line is their idol, with little care for their underlying civic duty to the public and to our non-profit arts.

I have no answers for you yet. But it is increasingly important that we maintain our ties to each other, and that we renew our relationships to our fellow unions. The social media campaigns that our musicians have created to connect with their audiences and supporters have, in many cases, been the turning point in contested negotiations. This grassroots organizing has changed the tide of public opinion and awoken some managements to their responsibility to our citizens as well as to the orchestra itself. 

Finally, our most pressing concern is the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony. After more than a year of talking and playing, countless hours of public outreach, despite that the musicians and their supporters secured $3.2 million dollars from the Maryland state legislature, their summer season has been cancelled and as of today, they are locked out. The BSO board and management have been disingenuous and disgracefully ineffective in fulfilling their responsibility to this great orchestra.

Whenever and wherever our musicians are in need, ICSOM responds—it is through our united network of orchestras and friends that we can effectively articulate to our managements that a move against one of us is a move against all of us. Let this serve as a CALL TO ACTION.  Our ICSOM Call to Action initiative has raised tens of thousands of dollars for orchestras involved in work stoppages, most recently over $200,000 for the musicians of the Chicago Symphony.

The unity and generosity of all our ICSOM musicians, along with our brothers and sisters in ROPA, OCSM, RMA, TMA, and throughout the AFM has been an inspiration to our musicians and a cautionary tale to our managements.

The musicians of the Baltimore Symphony need our help. The support of our ICSOM orchestras and every member of the AFM in these Calls to Action has been extraordinary and makes a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow musicians. What happens in Baltimore affects us all. If we respond effectively to every Call, we demonstrate the power in collective action as we spread the positive community message of musicians everywhere.

(Below is a message I read from Mary Plaine, Sec.-Treas. of Local 40-543)

Dear President Hair, IEB Members, AFM Delegates and Guests, 

Today, June 17th, the Musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra were locked out, following more than a year of our management shifting its position from making noises about wanting an early settlement to their October 30 proposal, in which they put forth an entirely new contract that includes cutting our season from 52 to 40 weeks. Since that time, the BSO musicians have repeated our mantra: We want a progressive agreement with cost of living adjustments and we want management to hire the contractually required number of full-time musicians. We musicians – and I include myself among them after my 37 years with the orchestra – stand united in our opposition to our orchestra board’s decision to guard the endowment while starving the musicians and the organization of operating funds. They have counter-productively canceled what would have been a lucrative summer season. With the support of the members of the American Federation of Musicians, and especially our brothers and sisters in ICSOM, we know we will prevail in our fight for a fair contract. We are grateful to ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow and President Hair for speaking to you, the Convention delegates, about our plight in Baltimore. On behalf of the board of Local 40-543, the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, and its members, the Baltimore Symphony Musicians thank you all for your support, now and in the future.

Mary Plaine, Secretary-Treasurer

The Musicians' Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, AFM

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ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow