The Music Plays On: Pasadena Symphony, Local 47 Musicians Reach New 5-Year Agreement

Retroactive contract will create new artistic advisory committee; both management and union representatives say they are pleased with outcome

Published : Monday, January 22, 2018 | 3:06 PM

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Lora Unger, Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops

Balancing efforts to create a strong orchestra and improve the working conditions of its musicians, the Pasadena Symphony Association and the American Federation of Musicians Local 47 announced a new five-year labor contract agreement Friday.

The musicians’ raises will begin with 5% coming at the beginning of the five-year period and the lowest raise of 1%, arriving in the fifth year. The union previously rejected an earlier management offer that also totaled more than 14% over five contract years, but without higher raises up front.

The part-time musicians previously earned an average of $8,697 per year, according to a symphony spokesperson. That number will rise to $9,132, in the first year of the new contract. By the last year of the contract, the average will rise to $10,029. There are 13 concert dates in the symphony’s annual season.

Lora Unger, Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops, said she was pleased that an agreement has been reached.

“We’ve taken great care to create a culture that fosters a collaborative approach between musicians and management and in the course of bargaining, it is a thoughtful process that does take time,” Unger said. “This is an agreement with a multi-year plan that the board is confident in delivering, given the institutional growth that we’ve achieved over the past two years with the support of our community.”

Unger also praised the orchestra and its musicians, adding, “This is an orchestra that can do it all and one that does it all in a very high level. We perform baroque and choral to the grandest of symphonies, to the popular music of the great American songbook and beyond.”

According to Jefferson Kemper, organization coordinator for the musicians, a new artistic advisory committee has also been established, an element which he called “a huge issue for all the musicians.”

Said Kemper, “It means that before the repertoire is decided on this season, the musicians get a chance to see what’s being planned and give their input about it.”

“Sometimes that mean that certain things hadn’t been taken into consideration before, like the fatigue put on a musician for playing certain very challenging pieces twice in a day,” he said.

As John Acosta, president of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 47, explained further, the musicians had played with an old contract for many years.

“The contract itself hadn’t been addressed in terms of working conditions for many, many years,” he said, “so the committee also thought it was time to go through the agreement thoroughly. By the time we got all that done, it was a voluminous set of proposals that the musicians demanded. It was pretty extensive.”

Acosta also revealed some of the detail that affects negotiations between musicians and orchestras. It’s not just playing the music, he said.

As Acosta explained, “There’s a push and pull that happens between the Union and its musicians and management about what a symphony orchestra is.”

Like Unger, Acosta said he is happy with new contract.

Unger noted that the contract addressed several infrastructure personnel elements and added, “This contract is a fair agreement, which is really important to note; it’s an agreement that both sides are proud of that respects the musician’s artistic talents and contributions, and it’s also an agreement that ensures that the Pasadena Symphony Association continues to have the strategic management flexibility to present concerts of various sizes and styles.”

The Pasadena Symphony’s next performance will come February 17 when the orchestra performs Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite under the baton of conductor David Lockington.

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