SAN ANTONIO Symphony Orchestra musicians have called a strike after management imposed a binding new contract on them from September 13.
The Texan San Antonio Symphony musicians work on three-year contracts, and this is the third year of the current contract.
The musicians agreed late last winter to a renegotiated third year due to the extenuating negative circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Sept. 13 contract was that renegotiated one.
Musicians voted on September 15 to unanimously reject it.
Mary Ellen Goree plays violin and is a musicians’ Local 23 negotiator, and the musicians’ reaction to Monday’s imposition of its tenets was dramatic.
‘Our response to that is that we cannot work under such imposed conditions, and we are calling a strike,’ she said.
She said the reason for the rejection of the contract was obvious if you read the contract’s details.
First off, full-time musicians would be reduced from 72 to 42.
‘The remaining thirty positions, four of them that are currently vacant, are being eliminated and the other 26 are being converted to what they call a full “contract per service,” and what we call “per service,” because there is nothing full about that contract,’ Goree said.
Per service means part-time musicians will lose health insurance.
Those musicians being flipped from full to part time will lose health insurance and full-time symphony players will also suffer a loss of nearly $8,000 a year in the new contract.
Goree said many of them won national competitions to get their jobs, and they moved their families here.
‘Converting them to part time with a very, very low salary and no health insurance – it will not save the symphony.
‘It will destroy the symphony. People aren’t going to stick around for that,’ she said.
Meanwhile, productions in Hollywood are under threat after backstage union workers voted unanimously to strike.
Over 90 per cent of those eligible to vote did so, with more than 98 per cent voting in support of strike action according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
The union has been campaigning for some time for better working hours, safer conditions in the workplace and improved worker benefits.
In a statement, president of the IATSE, Matthew Loeb, said: ‘The members have spoken loud and clear. This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry.
‘Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.’
Tens of thousands of IATSE members woke up early last Friday or were already on their way to set when they received an email with a link to their strike authorisation ballot.
Seeking to put the stalling studios and producers’ AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Theatre Producers) representatives on a Def Con 2 scale notice after talks on a new contract went silent weeks ago, the rank and file in 13 below-the-line union locals across the West Coast, and more elsewhere in the country, were asked to give their leadership the ability to put their power where their picket line is if necessary.
Members were presented with a very straightforward question: ‘Do you authorise the IATSE International President to call a strike against the Producers covered by the Basic/Area Standards Agreement?’ (Yes/No).
The IATSE workers voted overwhelmingly YES.
After months of bargaining with the Carol Lombardini-led AMPTP, the IATSE characterised the situation as a fairly clear choice, both professionally and personally.
‘The AMPTP has failed to work with us on addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces,’ the union said.
As the industry rebounds from the pandemic lockdowns and shutdowns of last year, those contentious issues include ‘excessively unsafe and harmful working hours; unlivable wages for the lowest paid crafts; consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends,’ and ‘workers on certain “New Media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.’
The desire for these changes has attracted widespread support among many Hollywood stars, members of Congress and more, putting further pressure on the studios, streamers and networks.
Before the ballot result was released yesterday (Tuesday October 5th) IATSE chief Matt Loeb wrote to members: ‘Dear Sisters, Brothers and Kin,
‘We’ve been bargaining since May 2021 but the producers believe they have done enough and refuse to answer our latest proposal.
‘Although some progress has been made, the producers have not responded to our core priorities in any meaningful way. We are holding a strike authorisation vote in order to show them that we are united in our convictions and further improvements in our compensation and working conditions are necessary.
‘Why haven’t the producers replied to our demands? Because there’s no good argument for not giving workers rest and meal breaks. There’s no good argument for asking people to work full time without providing them with enough compensation to make ends meet. They cannot claim with a straight face that New Media is still “new”.
‘Our members deserve respect. Not just because they are the most talented, creative technicians and artisans in the world, but because we are human beings with basic human needs. We require breaks during the workday, sleep, food, a safe trip home and a little time with family or away from the job.
‘The demands of the industry must be balanced with the health and wellness of its members. The changes we seek are modest and manageable. What we seek is simply fairness.
‘We must now show that we are unified with a vision toward a better life for our members; that the basic things we demand are well-deserved rights to which all works are entitled. Stability in the industry stems from a fair contract that respects our workers. Period.
‘I urge you in the strongest possible terms to vote YES on the strike authorisation. Stand together. We are strong.
Matthew D. Loeb
IATSE, International President’
- The giant American Trade Unions Confederation AFL-CIO are demanding an immediate end to deportation flights to Haiti and the ‘establishment of a meaningful asylum processing procedure’.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said on Monday: ‘America should be an open and welcoming country, so we cannot accept how Haitian migrants escaping deplorable conditions have been treated.
‘Workers’ rights are immigrant rights. Immigrants and refugees have always made essential contributions to our economy. America’s unions are committed to rebuilding the safety net and ladders of opportunity for everyone who lives and works here, and we can’t do that without reforming our immigration system.
‘Our labour movement represents workers from all backgrounds and from all regions of the world,’ Shuler continued, ‘we not only advocate for dignity on the job; we are champions for universal human rights. So we are wounded when we see human beings being treated deplorably, without due process – let alone having the ability to stand up collectively and advocate freely for themselves.
‘We must let our government officials know that we have an obligation to help Haitian migrants, examine those policies that continue to oppress, and eradicate the systems that deny people basic rights and freedoms.’
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said: ‘We are supposed to be an inviting country. But what does it say when time and time again, we turn our backs on those seeking a better life and those who are discriminated against because of their skin colour?
‘Black and brown human beings are no less worthy than any other individual. How do we justify this, and what do we say to the young who question this behaviour? We can no longer excuse the obvious.
‘We in the labour movement fight for fairness, economic empowerment, human rights and voting rights for all, which is why we need refugee resettlement and a pathway to citizenship.
‘Our core union values require us to look at everything through a basic lens of humanity. We cannot have an immigration system focused on deterrence and deportation and inequity based on race or ethnicity. Instead, we need our government to acknowledge and dismantle systems of structural racism that have been used to keep workers poor in our country and around the world.’
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said: ‘We have to do everything in our power to make this right. It’s not enough to say “I feel your pain”. We must have the energy to fix it.
‘The Haitians who need our help have been let down by our government too many times. We renew our call for a policy agenda that will uplift rights for all and enable workers and their unions to reduce inequalities and strengthen our fragile democracies.
‘We also call for an immediate end to deportation flights to Haiti, the establishment of meaningful asylum processing and an end to the callous use of Title 42 – a programme meant to ensure public health – to close our border to asylum seekers.