The Seattle Symphony & Opera Players' Organization (SSOPO) is the labor organization representing the musicians who perform for the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera. The bargaining unit is comprised exclusively of the members of the Seattle Symphony, including the music librarian. The self-governing organization (also referred to as "the Players' Organization"), is a chapter of the International Guild of Symphony, Theater, Opera and Ballet Musicians (IGSTOBM).
Although we are a chapter of the Guild, the SSOPO is our sole representative. We do not need to seek approval from a national office on issues that affect us locally, as some other unions require.
An elected Orchestra Committee administers the Players' Organization. This committee performs all the functions of its peers in other labor organizations: representing the interests of members, serving as shop steward, collecting work dues, filing grievances, etc.
The players' Artistic Advisory Committee is a second elected committee. This vital committee is defined and empowered in our employer agreements, to address the musical needs and concerns of our institution, specifically with regards to artistic leadership, programming, and the evaluation of conductors. Its members are responsible for communicating with the board and management on behalf of the musicians, all in an effort to keep the musical needs of our institution at the forefront.
Unique to the Players' Organization is the fact that our union has no paid employees. Members who perform various functions, from negotiating contracts to providing food for our monthly business meetings, do so voluntarily. Even the chairperson is unpaid.
We vote annually to set the percentage of work dues to be collected and to approve an operating budget. We maintain a reserve account to fund work stoppage benefits, should a strike or a lockout occur.
International Guild of Symphony, Theater, Opera and Ballet Musicians
The International Guild of Symphony, Opera and Ballet Musicians (known as “IGSOBM” or “The Guild”) was formed in Seattle as an independent union in 1985. The Guild won its first National Labor Relations Board-supervised elections in 1988, becoming the union representing the musician employees of the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Northwest Chamber Orchestra.
The Guild was founded in direct response to frustration among Seattle Symphony musicians with their previous union's dues structure, and lack of responsiveness and service. Unlike other musicians' unions, the Guild restricts membership to "orchestral musicians and librarians who are employed by not-for-profit organizations," and is completely voluntary. Chapters (locals) keep nearly all of their dues income and make all decisions about their expenditures.
In 2018, the Guild changed its full name to The International Guild of Symphony, Theater, Opera and Ballet Musicians (IGSTOBM), to include theater musicians.