COVID-19 and Rochester Labor
AFM Local 66
Interview with David Angus (President and Secretary-Treasurer, Rochester Musicians' Association, Local 66), 27 April 2021
Like all workers in the performing arts, musicians have suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra — the only bargaining unit in Musicians Local 66 — had their salaries cut twenty per cent as their live performance schedule was reduced and then cancelled. That the fifty-nine full-time and twenty-three part-time orchestra members continued to be paid was the result of contract negotiations and the financial status of the orchestra, which received federal payroll protection funds and whose patrons did not request significant ticket refunds. Production of taped concert performances have allowed the orchestra to provide streamed concerts to donors, subscribers and ticket buyers as the winter season progressed.
Approximately two-thirds of the Local's members perform casual engagements for which they negotiate their own contracts. These engagements were virtually eliminated throughout the pandemic, although members who were also music educators were paid by the schools which employed them.
As the weather improves members hope that outdoor performances may soon resume and that distancing requirements for performers — twelve feet for wind and brass players and six feet for string players — will soon be reduced. Meanwhile the union is hoping that all of its two hundred and twenty dues-paying members become inoculated, with most of the RPO's musicians already in that category.
During the pandemic the union has continued to function, though it has held no membership meetings and only Zoom meetings for its board.