Colorado Symphony Musicians’ AFM Representation In Question

Norman Lebrecht broke the news in a post from 5/6/2015 about the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Musicians filing a signed petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the status of their official representation. Currently, the musicians are represented by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM); Denver Musicians Association (DMA), Local 20-623 AFM AFL-CIO; and now that we have our acronyms straight, let’s take a closer look at what we know.

Adaptistration People 065Lebrecht’s post included a link to the NLRB online case file #27-RC-151373, and the RC prefix there means it is a type of certification or decertification petition. According to the NLRB, RC petitions are used to demonstrate (emphasis added) “a substantial number of employees wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by Petitioner and Petitioner desires to be certified as representative of the employees. The Petitioner alleges that the following circumstances exist and requests that the National Labor Relations Board proceed under its proper authority pursuant to Section 9 of the National Labor Relations Act.”

In this case, the Petitioner listed is the Colorado Musicians Guild, which according to is a Doing Business As (dba) name registered by the DMA; most recently on 5/03/2015. The phone number associated with the Petitioner is registered to CSO principal trumpet, Justin Bartels.

In order to dig up any more info or to see the signed RC Petition, Form NLRB-502 (RC), you’re going to have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) via NLRB guidelines.

What’s interesting at this point is what role, precisely, the Colorado Musicians Guild plays into all of this; even though the DMA is listed as the registrant organization, they are also listed as the Intervenor; at least, according to the case file. If that seems like a conflicting position, then you’re on the right track. Once I get a bit more time to do some digging, we’ll be in a better position to find out more about what is going on in Denver.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of this actually addresses the reasons why the RC Petition was filed but as Mark Twain once said “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” And if history is any indication, when it comes to union infighting in the public arena, it is a safe bet that there will be more than enough spin to go around. So for now, we’ll focus on getting the facts.

Just for fun: did you know the NLRB has an app? That’s right, you can download it for iOS or Android and according to the official description it’s “an interactive wizard guiding users through information on their rights and obligations under the National Labor Relations Act. The law applies to employees, employers, and unions in the private sector.”

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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