As we all remember, last season the Detroit Symphony won the race to the bottom in the labor relations/management incompetence sweepstakes. I’m amazed and very sorry to report that apparently the Minnesota Orchestra has decided Detroit didn’t quite go far enough, and has locked out the musicians for the first time in its 100-year history. With recent developments in Atlanta, Indianapolis and St. Paul, it doesn’t appear that the war on musicians will end anytime soon.
A google search will reveal that many people way more informed than I are feverishly dissecting the Minnesota situation. If you want to get up to speed quickly and comprehensively, one of the best sources is Song of the Lark, and in one way or another it includes most of the (still unanswered) questions that occurred to me when the lockout began yesterday. Such as:
* Why was the lockout so carefully anticipated and constructed, if the management was negotiating in good faith? You don’t immediately cancel two months of concerts without some careful planning (although the blowback from patrons may be much more intense than they think).
* How does one characterize a “negotiation”, when the management hasn’t moved from its initial positions presented last April?
* Why is the management so violently opposed to an independent financial audit, given their catastrophic proposals to the musicians? They claim they have their own audits- so did Lehman Brothers. And so does JP Morgan. What’s the orchestra hiding?
* Why did the management immediately dismiss the idea of a mediator? That approach has been very successful in lots of other situations, but usually without the driving force of radical ideology .
* Why are so many proposed changes to the contract work rules simply punitive to the musicians, with no financial element at all?
I could go on. But the point is this: maybe the last contract was overly generous in some respects, maybe things weren’t properly managed in other ways, and everyone needs to share in the sacrifice going forward. But a lockout? 81 musicians and their families instantly lose both their salaries and health insurance (but not management)? The musicians are being demonized because of an economic situation and climate that breeds resentment of anything that can possibly be construed as “expert”, or highly specialized (read “elite”). Same reason the NFL locked out the overpaid, spoiled refs- anyone can do that job, they aren’t so special, right?
For decades, Minnesotans have take pride in the accomplishments and extraordinary talents that make up the state’s most prominent cultural institution. In dramatic contrast, this management and board is out to destroy it, even though they may not quite realize that yet.
We have great respect for our musicians’ talents and today is a difficult day. – Jon Campbell, Board Chair
Our intention now is to get our current players back onstage.- Richard Davis, Chair of the board negotiating team.
With all due respect, that’s just bulls**t, and based on their recent actions they shouldn’t be allowed near any orchestra board. If they cared at all about the institution, both they and CEO Michael Henson would quit acting like North Korean diplomats, get back to the table with a mediator, open the books, and get a deal. And there will be a deal at some point, it’s just a matter of how much they learned (or didn’t learn) from Detroit or (more recently) Atlanta.
In the meantime, anyone that genuinely cares about the Minnesota Orchestra should make themselves heard loud and clear in any way they can.