Friday, October 31, 2014

Lockout Day 58: How You Can Help Right Now

ATL Symphony Musicians

Resources Page:  Requires Dropbox Account (download here free)

Dear ASOC Members and Friends:

When the Chief Operating Officer of our parent institution, Virginia Hepner, says -- publicly, on the air --that: "It's up to anyone to decide what's world class and what an orchestra should be." it is apparent to me that she has never heard us, never read a review, never bought a CD, or talked to another living soul about the ASO and ASOC.  

I'm appealing to chorus members -- especially new members -- to get involved with what is going on, and do what you can do to help inform your family, your friends, your professional colleagues about the crisis facing our orchestra and, by extension, the chorus. I don't care what anyone in management is saying,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Robbie Report: How the WAC Can Cut $5M from the ASO Budget

One of the more vexing issues we've been struggling with since 2012 has been the negative financial impact of Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, for which construction WAC Board member Larry Gellerstedt's company received a no-bid contract.  Loan payments as well as operating costs were added to the orchestra's bottom line, digging the orchestra deeper and deeper into debt.

Robbie Clark sheds light, asks probing questions, and generally tries to gauge the effect of VWA's effect on the ASO, after pioneering through a thicket of available information.

The ATL Symphony Musicians logo was adopted
in 2014 by the players, to differentiate themselves and their
activities as a separate entity from the ASO organization.

Op-Ed from The Musician's Child

Lexi Smith, Harvard Class '18, was raised by a violinist; one of our violinists, in fact: Denise Smith. Since she was an infant, Lexi has partaken of her mother's musical life, lived and breathed triumph and tribulation with all the ASO musicians, and has been a first-hand witness to the depth of commitment and sacrifice a professional musician makes to preserve the excellence of the organization.

Lexi's op-ed piece about the ASO Lockout was recently published by Harvard College Democrats Newsletter ... and we publish it here (under the special category of 'Children Raised To Do Right').

While you're reading Lexi's eye-opening article, please take a look at the article's accompanying photo of the ASO and ASO Chorus, led by Robert Spano, performing a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall.

If the WAC gets their way, we may have already performed our last show at Carnegie Hall ...

Robert Spano and ASO and ASOC
 at Carnegie Hall, 2012

Monday, October 27, 2014

What the Counter-Proposal Guarantees for the ASO

In order to reach an agreement, the musicians have to insist on having some kind of personnel 'markers' ... a fixed number of players, the existence of which would contractually guarantee an upward movement in numbers, toward a fuller complement, commensurate with the orchestra's status. This provision is absolutely necessary to halt further downsizing (one of WAC's go-to solutions for controlling costs; the other popular solution is musician salary reduction). 

If this counter-proposal is accepted, WAC will have to find other paths to lead them out of debt and close the deficit ... but the proposal does guarantee that the orchestra would not be burdened by WAC's cutting personnel or simply refusing to fill positions (a thing which has been done often in the past to improve the orchestra's bottom line).

If this counter-proposal is accepted, WAC would actually be forced to raise money on the orchestra's behalf.

WAC's last offer was, indeed, close.  This counter-proposal brings us closer to the world-class symphony Atlanta deserves.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

WAC Walks Away ... No Agreement

From ATL Symphony Musicians
For Immediate Release, October 24, 2014
Last night just before 11:00 PM, the Woodruff Arts Center representatives for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (WAC/ASO) walked away from the table after three days and almost 40 hours of talks ably mediated by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Commissioner Rich Giacolone, leaving the musicins at the Buckhead venue the FMCS arranged. Although some significant progress was made in health care -- and further time together may well have resulted in a complete agreement -- the WAC leadership continued steadfastly to refuse to support the need of a world-class Orchestra for a minimum fixed number of musicians. While the orchestra has been reduced by departures to only 77 Musicians, despite the required contractual complement of 88, the WAC refuses even to commit to 77 Musicians.
The ASOPA Committee volunteered to assist in health care cost savings by making a radical shift to a different type of plan that will save the WAC/ASO at least 25% -- over a quarter of a million dollars -- annually over the previous plan, which was canceled by WAC/ASO management last month three weeks after it locked out its musicians on September 7. The Musicians also proposed an annual compensation package which, in the final year of the proposed agreement (2018), would have the musicians earning $1,043 less per year than the compensation they earned during the 2011-12 season.
The ASOPA Committee has worked tirelessly -- and will continue to do so -- with no other intent than to achieve a fair agreement that protects the Orchestra's stature and allows it to return to making music on the stage where it belongs. The Musicians are available to meet and are certain that an agreement is entirely possible that will end the heinous lockout to which the musicians have been subjected. "We deeply appreciate the Orchestra's Board members and other supporters who are working to raise funds and who understand and appreciate the fight to maintain the artistic quality that has made the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra one of the world’s great symphony orchestras, and Atlanta's cultural flagship," stated ASOPA President Paul Murphy.
Attached for your information is a copy of ASOPA’s last proposal dated October 23, 2014 to the WAC/ASO.
Paul Murphy, President ASOPA
Daniel Laufer, Vice President ASOPA

Facebook: ATL Symphony Musicians
Twitter: @ATLSymMusicians
Counterproposal of the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players’ Association (ASOPA) and
AFM Local 148-462
Sixth Proposal for a New Agreement
with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Inc./Woodruff Arts Center, Inc.
October 23, 2014

1. Duration and Minimum Compensation
(Compensation and percentage increases remain factored into winter season weeks only.)
2013-14 Compensation was $75,936.06
Year 1: September 21, 2014 – September 19, 2015 (52 weeks / 42 winter + 10 summer)
1% / 1% (21 weeks / 21 weeks) increase over $1729.43 = $1746.72 / $1764.18
$1746.72 per 21 weeks times &
$1764.18 per 21 weeks times = $74,095.56 + $3,300 (summer) = $77,395.56
Year 2: September 20, 2015 – September 17, 2016 (52 weeks / 42 winter + 10 summer)
1.75% / 1.75% (21 weeks / 21 weeks) increase over $1764.18 = $1795.05 / $1826.46
$1795.05 per 21 weeks times &
$1826.46 per 21 weeks times = $76,711.32+ $3,300 (summer) = $80,011.32
Year 3: September 18, 2016 – September 23, 2017 (53 weeks / 43 winter + 10 summer)
1.5% / 1.75% (21 weeks / 22 weeks) increase over $1826.46 = $1853.85 / $1886.29
$1853.85 per 21 weeks times &
$1886.29 per 22 weeks times = $79,224.18+ $3,300 (summer) = $84,410.47
Year 4: September 24, 2017 – September 22, 2018 (52 weeks / 43 winter + 9 summer)
2% / 2% (21 weeks / 22 weeks) increase over $1886.29 = $1924.01 / $1962.49
$1924.01 per 21 weeks times &
$1962.49 per 22 weeks times = $84,387.07+ $ 2,970 (summer) = $ 87,357.07

2. Health Insurance
ASOPA tentatively agrees to the BCBS High-deductible plan (HDHP/no. of plan??). includes the $1,500 / $3,000 deductibles for Individuals and Family with the following provisions:
1) EE shall receive from the employer for each contract year $1,000 into their individual HSA account.
2) EE + Child shall receive from the employer for each contract year $2,000 into their individual HSA account.
3) EE + Spouse / Domestic Partner shall receive from the employer for each contract year $2,000 into their individual HSA account.
4) Family shall receive from the employer for each contract year $2,000 into their individual HSA account.
ASOPA also agrees that each contracted Musician covered by this agreement shall contribute for each contract year $20 weekly towards the premium of the referenced BCBS POS High-deductible plan.
To fully agree with this major change in our healthcare provisions in our CBA, ASOPA will need to receive verification of the Summary of Benefits for the BCBSPOS High-deductible plan with the specific benefits outlined, as represented to ASOPA orally across the table by the WAC / ASO, and they shall be fully reflected in the Agreement.

3. Orchestra Complement
Year 1: A Minimum of 77 Musicians
Year 1 – 2: Best efforts to increase complement of Musicians to 81 Musicians by the end of Year 2.
Year 3: A minimum of 85 Musicians by the end of the contract year.
Year 4: A minimum of 89 Musicians by the end of the contract year.

In all other respects, except for making date adjustments to conform to the term of the new Agreement, the current (2014-2018). Agreement continue in effect as written.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The WAC Fiddles While ASO's Endowment Burns ...

John Ruff's open letter to the WAC on this subject:

"Dear WAC -

Your total investment balance (money in the bank), including all division endowments and other investments, was around one-half Billion dollars as of 5-31-13. The ASO endowment was over $86,000,000 as of 5-31-09. These investments should have appreciated over the past year. 

Assuming the ASO annual deficit is in fact $2M, a 2.3% return on the ASO endowment covers it. If you are already skimming the endowment earnings, the question is why hold 43 years of deficit reimbursement (assuming you need all the admin expense and both marketing and fundraising are operating at peak performance) and downsize the ASO? 

Either you do not care about the excellence of the ASO or you are waiting for its destruction to steal the endowment. Good luck with that. 

Forget the new "unique" model nonsense, save your souls."

And the WAC (pounding fist on the table, in fact) wonders why we can't just keep our mouths shut ...

Patty Nealon's letter to Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

Read Patty's letter below ... and you'll get inspired to write your own!  If the question running through your head is: why should someone listen to me?  Here's a true story:  after months of PR by the musicians, working on major newspapers, trying to get them to carry the ASO's story ... a reporter just happens upon a blog, all on his own.  A phone call was made, and the rest is history. This issue matters ... The ASOC matters as an organization ... it matters to the people of Atlanta what the WAC is trying to do to a major cultural institution ... and it should matter to major news outlets.  

The musicians are holding out, they are not capitulating, and we are organized to help them!  Now more than ever, chorus members and friends, writing to people and making them aware of what is going on is crucial.  WAC has walked away from mediation, refusing to budge on the complement issue.  If the WAC succeeds, there will be no ASO, and by extension, no ASOC.  Do you want to stand behind a 60-piece pick-up orchestra?  I don't ... 

Dear Ms. Maddow,
Happy Friday! There is more going on in Atlanta than the misplacing of 40,000 voter registrations. There are multiple efforts to enrich the 1% at the expense of the 99% through union-busting.
Yesterday Atlantans participated in a rally in which locked-out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra joined with transit workers for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (presently working without a contract) and a few fast-food workers to protest unfair anti-labor tactics. The instrumentalists are members of the American Federation of Musicians (AF of M); the transit workers are represented by ATU; the fast-food workers are fighting for a living wage and are currently unable to unionize due to the hostile labor environment in Georgia and other so-called “right to work” states across the country.
As Curtis Howard, President of the ATU Local 732 writes: 'Musicians and transit workers may not seem like natural allies, but we must work together to preserve quality arts and quality public transit. Because if the ASO and the MARTA Boards succeed in their plans, they will transform Atlanta from a premier city into a cradle of inequality.'
Here is a link to the full article, quoted in part above:
Fittingly, this demonstration was held just outside the Arts Center MARTA rail station. One point brought up yesterday was that MARTA, in a move calculated to improve its bottom line, has plans to outsource and privatize transportation of disabled people. Atlanta residents who currently work in the existing MARTA Mobility division will lose their jobs as a result.
What is happening in Atlanta today is part of a wave of anti-union activity that has been eroding workers’ rights and incomes over recent decades. The actions of Gov. Scott Walker (a/k/a the Wisconsin Weasel) are broadly parallel to what has been done by the Woodruff Arts Center (WAC), and possibly served as a model.
• When Gov. Walker took office, he gave tax cuts totaling about $2M to corporations; he announced that the state had a deficit of about $2M; he blamed this deficit on teachers, social workers, and fire fighters, saying their pensions were the cause, and proposed that to remedy the situation these workers take an effective pay cut and be deprived of their right to bargain collectively.
• WAC has announced a deficit, which it attributes to the Orchestra, of about $2M; it blames this deficit on the Orchestra musicians, saying their salaries are the cause, and proposes an effective pay cut. By locking the musicians out instead of allowing them to play concerts while negotiations take place, they are effectively depriving the musicians of the ability to bargain collectively.
Please consider using your considerable talents as journalist and host to present Atlanta workers’ problems to the country. I will be happy to provide additional facts or put you in touch with people better-informed than myself.
All Americans are, have been, or will be affected by union-busting.

Best regards,

Patricia A. Nealon