The Institute of Classical Music will increase salaries, avoiding union disputes

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A dispute between the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union and the Classical Music Institute (CMI) has been resolved, but only for now – and only partially.

Monday morning in Judge Fred Biery’s federal courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, CMI attorney Donna McElroy filed a “motion to vacate” the temporary injunction Biery had previously issued against the AFM to allow CMI to perform as an orchestra. for the Opera San Antonio production of Pagliacci November 3-5.

The motion was granted, reversing a temporary restraining order preventing the AFM from picketing CMI performances and placing the orchestra on its unfair international list, threatening its member musicians with potential fines and loss of their membership if they performed with the band.

Biery had granted the injunction last Wednesday.

In court the next day, Biery urged the parties to agree to resolve the issue and avoid going to trial.

“No one is going to win in this thing, especially the musicians or the kids who are going to see Nutcrackerif that doesn’t happen, Biery said from the bench at the time, referring to the upcoming Ballet San Antonio performances that CMI is scheduled to play Dec. 2-11.

McElroy and AFM lawyer Matthew Holder reached an agreement on Friday, with CMI offering to pay above the salary scale set by the AFM for its musicians and make contributions to the union’s pension fund, thus resolving the crux of the union’s disagreement with CMI.

“We just withdrew the injunction request because once we figured out what they meant, we talked about it and they’re paying more than they perceive to be the standards in the area,” McElroy said. about CMI increasing its pay scale.

AFM President Ray Hair says the reason CMI was placed on the unfair list on Oct. 11 — immediately after Bexar County awarded CMI $300,000 to essentially replace the late San Antonio Symphony as the orchestra of San Antonio Opera and San Antonio Ballet – was because its pay scale was below the “zone standards” set by the union.

“We disagree that these are regional standards,” McElroy said, “but the fact is we pay more, so there’s no reason to put them on the list. unfair, full stop.”

AFM President Richard Oppenheim testified Thursday, answering no to multiple questions from McElroy about whether the union owned multiple arts groups in its 48-county jurisdiction, including the Symphony of the Hills in Kerrville, Valley Symphony Orchestra, South Texas Symphony Association. , Victoria Symphony and Mid-Texas Symphony, to similar regional standards.

Outside the courtroom, CMI executive director Donald Mason said CMI learned from the process and that setting higher salaries and contributions to the union’s pension fund would likely benefit other musicians in the region.

“I think it can set a precedent for other organizations to come together [area] standards, beyond CMI,” Mason said.

McElroy warned that CMI’s lawsuit against the AFM would continue without the injunction, seeking compensatory damages for the unfair slate placement from October 11 to November 2. During this time, several musicians contracted for the Pagliacci the performances left rehearsals and returned to their respective homes outside of San Antonio for fear of risking retaliation from the AFM, according to court records.

The amount of damages sought by CMI has yet to be determined, McElroy said.

After the hearing, Oppenheim declined to comment. Brian Petkovich, bassoonist and president of the San Antonio Philharmonic Orchestra, and former AFM Secretary/Treasurer and musician of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s done.

Mason said the CMI is now focusing on Nutcracker. “I feel like we can move on. I feel like the art can now take precedence and we can start doing great performances again.

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