Thursday, September 11, 2014

San Francisco Opera and Musicians' Union Ratify Four-Year Contract

I'm going to put the press release in full below the cut, but the highlights are:

  • Contract runs through July 31, 2018
  • Musicians get 3% increase per year, 28 weeks, 69 musicians (I take that to mean full-time employees; an expanded orchestra may be necessary for some works, for example, Elektra)
  • Changes were made to the health plan that will save the company $300,000 to $400,000 annually
  • The pit lighting and sound shields will be improved.
  • They've worked out something, but don't go into any details, to cover performances at the 299-seat theater being built in the Veterans Building.
The orchestra made some concessions in the last negotiations, in 2011, and sounds pleased with the new contract.

You'll note that unlike certain other negotiations we've seen in the last few years, there were no loud public pronouncements, no threats, no complaints, from either management or the musicians. Instead, they talked, and whether the talks were as collegial as the press release states or not, everything was done professionally and quietly, with an announcement at the end. As evidence that maybe there were some sticking points, I quote this: "Joel Schaffer, Commissioner of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, participated in the latter part of the negotiations." 

In any event, hats off to everyone who participated in reaching this agreement. You have my admiration and gratitude. 

SAN FRANCISCO (September 11, 2014)—The San Francisco Opera Association and members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 6 today jointly announced they have successfully negotiated a new four-year agreement for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra effective August 1, 2014. Following almost four months of bargaining, characterized by both parties as collegial, respectful and dedicated to shared problem-solving, the new agreement creates a stable working framework now through July 31, 2018.

The labor agreement provides increases in weekly pay of three percent in each year of the four-year agreement along with important changes to the Orchestra’s healthcare insurance which is anticipated to save the Company approximately $300,000 to $400,000 each year.  This new contract was ratified by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra on September 2 and provides stable employment for 28 weeks (including paid vacation) for the 69 members of the Orchestra.

The new agreement continues a commitment to media activity, central to the work of San Francisco Opera through its audience development programs and its international media distribution. This follows a transformational media agreement reached in 2011 and subsequently negotiated with the Opera’s other labor partners, thereby ensuring all of the Company’s media activity.

The new contract also provides for improvements to the War Memorial Opera House orchestra pit with new lighting and sound shields. In anticipation of the Company’s upcoming expansion into the adjacent Veterans Building/Wilsey Center for Opera, which will include a 299-seat theater, a vanguard new provision for work at the Wilsey Center was negotiated with both parties recognizing the importance of a new kind of programming in that venue.

An important new healthcare paradigm provides a selection of HMO, PPO and high-deductible plans aimed at providing more cost-effective, yet still flexible coverage that provides cost savings to the organization while meeting the complex healthcare needs of the Orchestra.

“I’m deeply grateful for the dedicated work of both negotiating teams,” commented SFO General Director David Gockley. “At a time of continued turbulence for this industry, I’m heartened that difficult issues were able to be addressed in a respectful manner, with both sides committed to the future of the Company. I’m especially appreciative of the Orchestra’s work with us to find additional savings after significant concessions in the 2011 negotiation, and for partnering with us on finding solutions to the growing cost of healthcare.”

Musicians’ Committee Chair Kevin Rivard observed: “Having made major concessions in 2011, the Orchestra is hopeful that this contract puts us on a path toward recovery. We are proud of the joint effort that preserved our contract while producing better understandings between the parties and ultimately helped us find creative solutions to our health insurance needs.”

San Francisco Opera’s negotiating team included David Gockley, Matthew Shilvock, Michael Simpson, Teri Xavier and Claire Padien-Havens with legal counsel from Nick Geannacopulos of Seyfarth Shaw. San Francisco Opera Orchestra’s negotiation team included Negotiation Committee members Kevin Rivard (chair), Thalia Moore, CarlaMaria Rodrigues, Mark Drury and Craig Reiss, Musicians Union Local 6 President David Schoenbrun, healthcare consultants Ilene Levinson and Glenn Risso, and administrative assistant Jane Shaffer, with counsel Liza Hirsch Medina. Joel Schaffer, Commissioner of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, participated in the latter part of the negotiations.

San Francisco Opera launched the 2014–15 Season on September 5 with a gala performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, followed by the Company premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah on September 6 and the 41st Opera in the Park concert on September 7. For complete details of San Francisco Opera’s 92nd season, visit

No comments: