Secretly Group Union wins contract in milestone for independent music organization



The Secret group union affirmed and ratified a contract with his employers, marking a milestone for one of the first independent record label personnel to organize.

The SGU announced the news on Twitter on Tuesday evening, October 11, writing, “We are delighted to announce that contract negotiations have been completed and our members have voted to ratify the contract! It was a long and very difficult fight, but we couldn’t be more proud to be the first independent label group union. We hope it’s a beacon for other labels and other people struggling to work in music. Our vote was a controversial decision, and we already know why we come back when it’s time to get back to the table.

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Secretly is one of the largest independent music companies, comprising five labels – Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans, JagJaguwar, Ghostly International and archival label Numero Group – as well as distribution and publishing arms. The list of these labels includes heavyweights such as Bon Iver, Phoebe Bridgers, Yoko Ono, Sharon Van Etten, Mitski, the War on Drugs and Khruangbin.

On Twitter, Dead Oceans shared a message about the contract saying, “This agreement marks a new chapter in Secretly’s ongoing commitment to our people, our workplace, and the core values ​​we bring to artists and label partners every day. A heartfelt note of thanks is in order: to everyone involved in reaching today’s deal, to the depth of trust and respect colleagues have placed in each other and in this process , as well as the efforts and work undertaken to reach this important milestone. »

Secretly Group staff members first announced plans to unionize in March 2021 in hopes of securing a contract that would allow them to tackle issues such as low pay, care benefits inadequate health care and the desire for more transparency and representation in the workforce. To help their organizing efforts, Secretly employees have worked with the International Union of Clerical and Professional Workers, which represents administrative staff at several major corporations, as well as workers in other fields.

At the time, a member of the organizing committee, who had spoken with rolling stone anonymously, explained: “We’ve all had friends say to us, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky. You work with music, you get a free ticket to a show or free drinks,” but drinks, shows and music don’t pay our rent or provide us with the support we need. We obviously have a real passion for what we do. We love our roster, and we’re really proud of all the music we put out, and we’re proud to be able to work on it. But that doesn’t replace the kinds of benefits and compensations we need to continue to be able to do that.

For its part, Secretly Group agreed to voluntarily recognize the union shortly after the initial announcement, although it still took 14 months for negotiations to conclude and the contract to be ratified. This kind of endless negotiation has not always been easy, acknowledges Sanjeev Rau, Secretly Group’s operations coordinator and member of the negotiation committee. In addition to turnover of staff/negotiating committee members, SGU was tasked with finding a contract that worked for both office and warehouse workers, and for workers dispersed across many states.

“But,” says Rau, “we were blessed with a unit full of intelligent, courageous, moral people whose compassion for their fellow human beings replaced concern for themselves alone. role in this battle and their insight and support has been invaluable and will continue to be as we move forward.

Jeremy Daly, another bargaining committee member who works in licensing at Ghostly, notes, “Most unions don’t get a first contract. The fact that we did that speaks volumes about our union members and the company across the way. After many extremely long days and nights, I can say that it was an absolute pleasure to be able to be involved in something that was bigger and more meaningful than me – an opportunity one rarely receives in life.

For SGU, crossing the finish line and approving the contract was arguably the hardest part, with Rau admitting this is where things got particularly “controversial”. The contract guarantees major gains like 100% health care coverage, guaranteed annual salary increases, assigned sick leave separate from paid vacation, pre-tax benefits for commuters and a labor management committee to work with management on developing workplace policy and increasing transparency.

But salaries were a major sticking point, especially for Secretly’s warehouse workers, who were reportedly unhappy with the final offer presented by Secretly Group. Due to the aforementioned victories, the Union still found the supermajority it needed to ratify the contract; but the members of the negotiation committee are categorical: this first contract must be a first step, and not a final victory.

“There’s just no getting around the fact that Secret group union and the company as a whole disagree on salaries, especially when it comes to the value and importance of our warehouse staff,” says Rau. “They are the backbone of the business, brilliantly executing fast-paced, high-intensity manual labor for not just the Secretly labels, but nearly 100 other independent labels around the world, and direct artist clients to boot. of that. The union believes it deserves better. In the end, after discussions with the entire unit, a super majority of the bargaining unit decided to vote to ratify the contract, whether it was because of the benefits they saw in the contract or of the promise of what an investment in a union holds for us and our future. We pledged to continue the fight for our warehouse staff and now we must keep that promise. »

Ryan Ille-Potter, Tag Services Coordinator at Secretly Distribution, adds, “To me, this deal feels like a solid first step. Does it solve all the problems raised by our colleagues? Unfortunately no. This is our first contract and there will always be areas where it falls short of expectations, but it gives us a great base from which to continue to improve our working conditions.

This story was updated on 10/13/22 at 10:10 a.m. ET with more information and quotes from members of the Secretly Group Union.

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