Updated: Mar 30
Time to get out the Magic Decoder Ring again…er…the Magic Decoder Backhoe might be more effective. Here is a translation of the latest update to the SAS website regarding negotiations. Direct quotes from the website in italics and explanations below.
(Updated March 28, 2022)
Disclaimer: this page is for general information purposes only and not intended to represent a full account of negotiation or organizational activities.
We intend to say whatever we think will make us look best and musicians look worst, with no consideration for the truth.
We have been and continue to be in the midst of good faith bargaining, now with the aid of Federal mediators.
“Good faith bargaining” is a lie which we hope you will believe if we just repeat it enough. We began with the false pretense of asking to reopen the third year of the contract due to the effects of the pandemic, entered into negotiations with a fixed endpoint in mind (our fictitious $4.7M budget cap), and have continued with regressive bargaining in which we rearrange numbers without actually raising our fictitious limit. Most recently we introduced work rules changes and non-mandatory subjects of bargaining, all of which would be to our benefit and the musicians’ detriment. We take and take and take while musicians should be grateful for the crumbs from our table, that’s our definition of “good faith bargaining.”
To date, we have provided multiple contract proposals
To date, we have rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic in several configurations pleasing to our eyes
and have offered to enter into binding arbitration, similar to the concept outlined in the proposed labor supported Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
This is completely disingenuous on our part as we are—or should be—aware that the PRO Act was never intended for a situation such as ours—it was really written with newly organized labor negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in mind. And we have given the musicians absolutely no reason to trust us and many reasons not to.
We have faith the process will lead to an agreement all parties can support so we can, together, restore live performances for our community, our patrons, and music lovers.
We remain convinced that despite all evidence to the contrary, the musicians will eventually fold and give us what we want.
The most recent [proposal]…included:
Multi-year contract through 2026 with a minimum complement of 50, with a commitment to only achieve that number through attrition. Currently there are 14 open positions in the orchestra.
A “multi-year contract” is easy for us to promise considering that only twice in the past thirty years have we honored a three-year contract in its entirety, so we will promise anything, secure in the knowledge that in a couple of years, or perhaps sooner, we expect to force the musicians back to the bargaining table for more concessions. We also know that committing to a minimum complement through attrition is meaningless because attrition will result in an orchestra lacking entire sections of important instruments and half-sections of other instruments, so we’re not actually promising anything that has a chance of happening. And in the end if too many musicians foil our plans by refusing to quit, we can always force another reopener to reduce the complement further.
Base salary of $30,650 for 30 total weeks of work, or $1015 per week.
Crucially, we don’t admit here that we’re only talking about a partial orchestra. And we also don’t admit that this is still a salary reduction. The CBA called for $1154 per week for the 2021-2022 season.
Full 52 weeks of healthcare and insurance benefits with the employer paying 80% of the cost, in addition to personal leave and other benefits…an average total compensation package of $42,500 for 30 weeks of work.
This is a lie, an egregious lie, a bald-faced lie, one which we hope the musicians don’t notice. Our proposal to the musicians did not say this. What it actually says is, “Eligible employees will be allowed to elect healthcare coverage and the employer will pay 80% of the base plan premium while the employee is working.” WHILE THE EMPLOYEE IS WORKING. Since we are only proposing a 30-week season, which is 58% of the year, what we are actually proposing is to pay 80% of the premium for 58% of the year, for a total of 46% of the cost of our base healthcare plan. 46% is a lot less than 80%! They’re musicians; surely none of them will notice a little mathematical sleight of hand.
We also want to mention “30 weeks of work” as often as possible in this update so everyone gets the idea that the musicians are lazy and don’t want to work a real 52-week job like everyone else. We aren’t going to mention that (1) we are the ones controlling how many weeks we program—if we offered 52, or 40, or 35, weeks of work, the musicians would jump at it, and (2) musicians cannot take off 22 weeks a year from their instruments without losing a lot of artistic ground so they’re already working for nothing much of the time.
Base salary would rise over the life of the proposal from $1015 per week to $1,115 per week, a ~9.9% increase.
More disingenuousness on our part. $1115 is only an increase if you go back to 2015. But more significantly, every past three-year contract with the increases backloaded in the third year has been reopened and renegotiated downward before we ever were required to honor the third year. We know that promises are made to be broken, and that the musicians are unlikely ever to see anything close to even a minimal increase in their compensation.
In alignment with the protections in the CBA…work weeks will continue to not exceed 22.5 hours per week total for Symphony rehearsals and performances.
Got to make those musicians look as lazy as possible! They only work 30 weeks! And fewer than 23 hours a week! We will not admit what we know, which is that rehearsals and performances are the tip of the iceberg for the musicians. We know, but won't admit, that they must spend many hours a week in individual practice in order to continue performing at the high artistic level that they are known for. We know, but won't admit, that just as courtroom attorneys spend many hours in research and preparation, professors spend many hours in research and writing lectures, so too must musicians spend many hours in practice.
In January of 2022, SAS released its most recent audit report…for the year ending June 30, 2021.
We love to point to this audit report because it was issued before we received half a million dollars in Shuttered Venue grants and just over $800,000 in an ironically titled Employee Retention Tax Credit. We have also had no artistic expenses since September 2021, which has been quite a savings. We're actually in much better financial shape than the audit suggests.
In summary, we understand and appreciate that this is an extremely difficult time for all involved
Especially for us, because those pesky musicians refuse to capitulate as we were assured they would.
-Mary Ellen Goree
Principal Violin II
Chair, Negotiating Committee