The rest of the labor movement should know that we are an unusual union. Local 8 has four collective bargaining agreements with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the Skylight Music Theatre, and Broadway Across America. However, only around 70 musicians are full-time with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The rest of our members are freelancers and many rarely work under our four CBAs. We have a Minimum Wage Scales list for all types of musical engagements and our members refer to it when negotiating for playing a wedding, party, parade, or festival. Our freelancers might go weeks or months without a gig while staying steadfast to the union cause.
It’s all about hope and vision since unionism and many genres of music have been slowly shrinking over the past 60 years. In the future Local 8 hopes to organize two more CBAs making a total of six. In 2005, Local 8 organized the Broadway musicians at the Marcus Performing Arts Center and the Skylight Music Theatre. This was a great victory for our theater musicians who held steadfast until both CBAs were ratified. We have enjoyed the opportunities to sit across the table from our employers and exercise our collective rights and get to know each other very well. This was a tremendous achievement as our theater musicians were undervalued and exploited before the recognition.
Our biggest challenge is our shrinking industry, lack of work, and lack of donations for our non-profit workplaces. We wish all of our CBA and other ensembles and organizations good fortune and success. We will do our best to provide the highest level of music performance far into the future.