I wrote an 11 page paper about the problems with unions, Part 5: …Maybe the opera is worse.

Because this was a paper for law, I wrote a very lengthy footnote about how I am a member of the union, blah, blah, blah and it is in my interest to provide more artists with control and no one asked for an NDA. I feel this will suffice here.

The fact that nothing changed for the auxiliary choristers until the next negotiation period makes sense, in terms of the conclusion that the NLRB came to – simply that they be included in collective bargaining. If the organization is following the prescribed negotiation schedule, there is no recourse for the auxiliary choristers to negotiate the terms of their agreement until the next bargaining period.

This could be a huge loophole in the union system. The difference between the stipend received under the initial contract and the set hourly pay put into place in the most recent negotiations is significant. The current negotiations provide a per performance fee for every chorister, with every non-regular chorister being paid the same amount, with the exception of bit parts. That could be a difference of thousands of dollars for a former auxiliary chorister. The regular choristers must only commit to 50% of the season, but are paid at twice the rate that non-regular choristers are paid.

The question remains as to whether identical duties and identical billing makes this negotiation fair or not. Every local union member votes to ratify a new contract, so the percentage of the voting body that were considered auxiliary members and were deciding their own fate was likely less than 10%. There is still no space in the system for these singers to sit down at the table and decide their own fate unless they took it upon themselves, personally, to campaign to other members. It’s not clear whether this is allowable.

The huge difference in fees that the supplementary choristers are receiving now, from what they were receiving as auxiliary choristers indicates the flaw in the argument that they did not have a stake or “community interest” in the company at a level that necessitates union involvement. It’s easy to see why, from the perspective of an artist and a union, anyone getting paid has an interest in collective bargaining. While these artists got very little say in their own fates, they did have success as members of the union that they might not have had alone. Ultimately, a balance has to be reached wherein artists have more leeway to ensure their own success and fair employment. However, it seems clear that, unless huge changes are made within the performing arts community, that balance will need to be reached within the union structure in order to ensure continued protection for artists.

Works cited after the jump. Bridget, out.

Works Cited

“About Actors’ Equity Association.” Actors’ Equity Association. Actors’ Equity Association, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.actorsequity.org/AboutEquity/aboutequityhome.asp&gt;.

“About Us.” SAG-AFTRA. SAG-AFTRA, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.sagaftra.org/content/about-us&gt;.

American Guild of Musical Artists, and Seattle Opera. Agreement between AGMA and Seattle Opera. N.p.: n.p., 2012. Print.

American Guild of Musical Artists, Inc. Constitution and By-laws. Aug. 22 ed. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.

“Document Libraries.” Actors’e Equity Association. Actors’e Equity Association, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <http://www.actorsequity.org/library/library.asp?cat=3&gt;.

“Equity, 4As ‘Do Not Work’ Notice.” Actor’s Equity Association. Actor’s Equity Association, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://Actor’s Equity Association>.

Seattle Opera v. American Guild of Musical Artists, 2002, D.C. Cir. 292 F.3d 757.

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