Musicians in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas can play a happy tune following a Dec. 27 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that says musicians in symphony orchestras are employees with the freedom to join unions—not independent contractors.
Members of the Lancaster (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra sought to join the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the union filed a petition for an election But an NLRB regional director ruled the musicians were independent contractors and thus ineligible for union representation.
The Board’s 2-1 decision reversed that ruling and sent the case back to the region for further action. Citing the Lancaster ruling, the NLRB issued decisions the following day that the musicians in the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and the Plano Symphony Orchestra are also employees with the right to join a union.
For more on the cases, visit the NLRB here and the Bureau of National Affairs’ Daily Labor Report (subscription required) here.
Most of the time here at AFL-CIO Now we deal with serious subjects like workers’ rights, health care, economic inequality to sometimes even wonkish matters such as currency manipulation and corporate governance rules.
But we thought if you are visiting us today in the middle of holiday season and just a couple of days before News Year’s celebrations get underway, we’d give you something different courtesy of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
Each month the union’s magazine—International Musician—features one of their better known members who talk about how they got started in the music business and what their union membership means to them.
Violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine told the magazine:
As a home-school assignment, I had to write a paper about the AFL-CIO, and as I was learning about the history of unions in America, I was seeing on a daily basis how the AFM was protecting us. To this day, I feel a sense of solidarity with my brothers and sisters that I’m playing with every night.
Jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker says he joined AFM in 1966 when he moved to New York City and that the networking with “the great musicians already enrolled” opened doors. “You’d form relationships and play gigs with other members. And one thing always led to another.”
Five decades later Brecker says, “[The union’s] wonderful pension plan is very important for young musicians. It’s important they realize that they have a future when they get older.”
Click here and check out the list on the left of featured musicians.