Musicians: We Are One

It has been a little over three years since musicians performing services for the Florida Grand Opera undertook the task of organizing for a collective bargaining agreement. Many of those musicians had been working in the opera pit for five or more consecutive years when word got out that the Opera was planning to replace its current contractor and musicians with Miami Symphonic Services for their next season.

Local 655's Executive Board announced its support of the organizing effort and asked for support from all musicians. Many musicians denied their support and cited reasons including the tardiness of the effort by the previously complacent opera musicians and that many of the opera musicians themselves had replaced Miami City Ballet musicians when those musicians attempted to save their own jobs.

Hopefully, long before another crisis repeats this same scenario, musicians will fight for their legally-given right as employees to collectively bargain with their employers. If those efforts are undertaken, musicians will need the support of the entire community of professional musicians. Practicality would dictate that all musicians adhere to their principles and support musicians' efforts to organize by refusing to become replacements.

It is clear that the abandonment of union principles in favor of apparent self-interest is ineffective in the long run. Individuals who withhold their support of their peers' efforts to organize, in the misguided belief that they will enhance their own employment opportunities, degrade the quality of the available employment and damage the work environment in general. We have shown our now-emboldened employers that the musicians are divided and are not willing to stand up for each other. Unity is the only way to foster a work environment in our geographic area where the employers acknowledge the values and rights of our professional lives.

The next time there is an organizing effort underway in our area, we should take the attitude that we are all directly involved. We are most effective when we work together in solidarity.

Eric Kerley, Local 655 Director


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