Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

GUEST COLUMN: While negotiations continue, GR Symphony Musicians focus on community


Paul Austin and Diane McElfish Helle (GRSMA)

Paul Austin and Diane McElfish Helle are co-chairs of the negotiation committee for the Grand Rapids Symphony Musicians Association (GRSMA).

GRAND RAPIDS September 30, 2015– The Musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony, members of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 56/Grand Rapids) have been negotiating for a new contract since April 27 with their employer, the Grand Rapids Symphony Society. The four year agreement between the Musicians and the Society expired August 31, 2015. Since September 1, the Musicians have been working without a successor contract in a “work and talk” situation.

While we cannot reveal specific details from our negotiation sessions, we can say that the Musicians seek for the GRS to grow along with the city that currently is experiencing a boom like never before, while the management seems to want to turn back the clock, shrinking the number of full-time players, and decreasing pay and benefits to its Musicians.

Musicians embrace community, seek support from the public


New logo for the Grand Rapids Symphony Musicians Association

Over the summer, the Musicians changed the name of their organization from Professional Orchestra Musicians Association of Grand Rapids (POMA-GR) to Grand Rapids Symphony Musicians Association (GRSMA). A new logo for GRSMA was created and featured on yard signs, t-shirts, and postcards. They have created three e-newsletters, all available at their site

On September 8, the Musicians produced and performed a concert at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to a standing-room only audience. The program, entitled “Ensemble,” traced the 80 year history of symphonic music in our city.

For opening night concerts of the Grand Rapids Symphony (September 18 & 19), GRSMA greeted audience members in front of DeVos Hall and distributed postcards which asked for support, as follows:

Support can be shown by visiting the Musicians’ site to sign up for future e-newsletters, as well as picking up a free yard sign or purchasing a GRSMA t-shirt ($20) at the Grand Rapids Federation of Musicians office (800 Monroe NW, Suite 230, Grand Rapids MI 49503) weekdays between the hours of 12:30pm and 4:30pm. 

The updated online presence of the Musicians also can be found on Facebook (GRSMusiciansAssoc) and Twitter (@GRSMusicians).

In August, local supporters created the Friends of the GR Symphony Musicians, a community-driven advocacy group formed to promote the Grand Rapids Symphony through supporting its Musicians, to ensure its vitality and relevance as it advances to the 100th anniversary of its founding: 2030. This organization was founded by GRS patrons, subscribers, donors, and community members who cannot imagine west Michigan without its artistic ambassadors: the Musicians of the GR Symphony.

Guest columns on represent the views and opinions of their authors, not necessarily the opinions of the Kent-Ionia Labor Council. If you would like to submit a guest column, please email Steve at All columns are subject to KICLC board review, and editing for clarity and length.


This entry was posted on September 30, 2015 by in Local news and tagged , , , , , .

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

The Kent-Ionia Labor Council, AFL-CIO is a coalition of west Michigan labor unions in Kent and Ionia Counties, based in Grand Rapids.

Address, phone, email

918 Benjamin NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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