"Extra" Musicians and the Duty of Fair Representation
Tetreault, Mark, International Musician
The cover article of the August 1988 issue of ICSOM's Senza Sordino was entitled "Justice for Extras." My tuba-playing colleague Michael Moore of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA) made the case that we are ethically bound to treat the musicians who work as extras in our orchestras fairly. These musicians have no job security, and often the way that they are hired or replaced is a complete mystery. Extra musicians often play extremely important parts under intense pressure and scrutiny. It is a difficult job.
We have made a lot of progress since 1988 in terms of wage parity, but extras still are largely excluded from participating in collective bargaining. There continues to be resistance from fulltime orchestra players to the idea of extras being included in negotiations. Full-time musicians often feel that they have earned a special status because of succeeding in auditions and/or tenure reviews. This status comes with many privileges such as paid vacation and sick days. However, in bargaining, all AFM members have equal status.
In collective bargaining the local has the legal responsibility to represent all of the musicians working under a collective agreement. This is a well-established fact supported by Supreme Court decisions. Unions cannot discriminate against temporary or part-time workers (dues paying members!) whose wages and conditions are covered by a collective agreement.
In Canada, the union is responsible for representing musicians in an ever-increasing range of issues that are arbitrable under collective agreements. These include common law complaints under the Human Rights Code, as well as provincial employment standards, codes, and other employment-related legislation.
The local is now the protector and enforcer of the individual common law rights of employees where those rights are affected in the employment context. The musician, extra, or full-time, is precluded from asserting those rights either before the courts or any specialized tribunal, and must use the grievance procedures of the collective agreement that governs their work.
The local's duty of fair representation extends to collective bargaining. In a situation where extras' wages and work conditions are governed by the same collective agreement as full-time musicians, and where the extra musicians are dues paying members, the local has the responsibility to treat the members in a manner that is not arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith. …