Use of the Comparative Analysis Feature of the AFM’s Online Wage Charts to Prepare for Negotiations

By Hofmann, Laurence | International Musician, July 2017 | Go to article overview

Use of the Comparative Analysis Feature of the AFM’s Online Wage Charts to Prepare for Negotiations


Hofmann, Laurence, International Musician


Gathering facts and understanding the desires of each member of the bargaining unit are two essential components of preparation for collective bargaining negotiations. Negotiators may wish to integrate a variety of data from the AFM's wagechart. afm.org website.

The AFM's dynamic and interactive database is designed to filter the huge amount of data collected in the wage charts of player conference orchestras. In the July 2016 International Musician, I wrote an article that detailed the features and capabilities of the database hosted at wagechart.afm.org. The wage charts, specifically the "Comparative Analysis" section of the website, is a useful tool to organize schematic and graphic reports about an orchestra's historical data, as well as orchestra status among peer orchestras. This article will illustrate how effectively the wage chart website and its sections can be utilized in negotiations.

The data contained on the website is complex and not always uniform across player conferences. Data is collected from collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), as well as furnished by the union and the employer. When management refuses to deliver financial information, it may be drawn from the nonprofit employer's tax returns (IRS Form 990), which are public records. Finally, this data needs to be complemented by analysis of the socio-economic and cultural environment for bargaining.

The "Historical Review" feature of the comparative analysis may be used to visualize the historical growth of the orchestra and to highlight peaks (and valleys). Events that provoked those changes should be investigated by the negotiators: the resuming of an orchestra's stature after a strike/lockout, a new management, renewed abilities to engage funding and to apply for grants, or successful ticket and subscription sales due to talented musicians or effective marketing. Other questions ofinterest about the socio-economic and cultural impact on the orchestra's growth might concern the citizens' consumption of culture, their preference for outdoor activities, their general level of education, the main industry in the region, and more.

By comparing an orchestra with its peers, negotiators can both identify and bolster realistic bargaining positions. Peer orchestras can be found by using the "Filter by Criteria" feature and applying one or more of the five filter criteria (season length, musicians currently employed, orchestra budget, minimum annual salary, minimum weekly salary) and by indicating a range of desired values for each filter. To extend comparisons among Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and even Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) orchestras, some allowances may need to be made to allow for differing structures (e. …

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