by Rob Knopper
The Atlanta Symphony Musicians were locked out on the morning of September 7th. This means that, after decades of securing a financially feasible way of life, and two years after taking deep concessionary cuts to salary, weeks of work, and number of musicians in the orchestra, they are once again being asked for more.
Update: The ATL Symphony Musicians have begun picketing this morning, September 8th, 2014.
This hits a sore spot for the MET Orchestra Musicians. Our recent labor dispute went right to the brink. After months of public disputes, we agreed to a concessionary contract that calls for extensive oversight of our management.
Much of the power that musicians wield comes from a simple concept: together we are stronger than we are individually. We saw that, with a unanimous strike authorization vote in May, and a deep confidence in our fellow orchestra members and elected committee members, we were able to stand up in the face of extreme, career-altering demands from our management.
In the same way that internal solidarity helps us in times of need, we felt the support of other orchestras, community members, and classical music fans through email, social media, and on the Internet. Additionally, we started to see many bloggers and politicians give us their support. This support wasn't just helpful - it was essential.
Public support may have been what tipped the balance in our case, and we know from the depths of our own negotiating experience how it can help. Here is what that you can do to help the Atlanta Symphony Musicians during this difficult time:
1. Facebook: Like ATL Symphony Musicians. Share every one of their statuses. Like, comment, and generally heap positive attention on them.
Every click improves visibility and helps spread the message of the ATL Symphony Musicians. They are fighting for the things that help musicians be musicians. So, if you are a musician, support musicians; if you support the existence of an orchestra in your town, please do this.
2. Twitter: Follow @ATLSymMusicians. Retweet, favorite, and reply to every one of their tweets.
You never know which on-the-fence board member or administrator in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra management is on Twitter, and when they'll see it. Maybe your friend of a friend of a friend sees your tweet and is the former babysitter of a major player in this argument. The management needs to feel pressure coming from every direction to end this lockout, and the musicians need to feel support from every corner of the music world to empower themselves to save their orchestra.
3. Blogs: Follow all the important blogs, and share/retweet everything that supports musicians.
Blogs like Mask of the Flower Prince, Slipped Disc, Case Arts Law, Adaptistration, Song of the Lark, and Sticks and Drones have all given more support to musicians by their blogged words than they'll ever know. Blogs affect politicians, administrators, and the public at large. Support these blogs, and the opinions expressed in them, by sharing and commenting on the pages. If a union-buster makes a despicable comment on a blog, do your best to reply in an intelligent, positive way. This shows not only the writer of the negative comment, but anyone else reading the comment threads, who the good guys are.
In the past, orchestra managements have had one great advantage over musicians: money to spread their message. This year, for instance, the Metropolitan Opera Board paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times to reject the views of the musicians. We're not sure how many people saw or were swayed by that ad. However, we consistently had tens of thousands of viewers of many of our blog posts. The blog Slipped Disc itself has over 1.5 million visitors to its page every month, and for a number of months, we were regularly featured on the blog. Social media is the great equalizer - it gives people who have less money a voice to spread their message.
As the MET Orchestra has just experienced, stakeholders have a profound yearning for accountability from management. Two years ago, Atlanta's management made a promise: it would be a one time cut. They have broken that promise. And so we are calling on everyone to support Atlanta's fine players, and demand accountability from their management.
Thank you in advance for your dedication and support. Professional orchestras couldn't exist without the people who care about them, and we need you to make your voice heard.