Ok, the catchy title for today’s article isn’t my idea. It was the subject line from an email I received from a Philadelphia Orchestra patron, Eric Bruskin. Eric wrote in to ask a few poignant questions and offer some of his observations about how the POA board of directors has decided to use the orchestra’s website as a venue for the ongoing negotiations with the musicians.
“I live in Philly and subscribed to the PO last year and I was disturbed to receive a letter a few days ago that said essentially presented the same material that they put up on the orchestra website. Who was paying for sending out these letters?
I’d write to management, but what would I say, “shame on you”? I wish I could include something with teeth. How do I effectively communicate my frustration with the POA without hurting the musicians? It’s like brain cancer …”
Eric wasn’t the only reader to write in with opinions about this topic. To date, I’ve had more email messages about this subject than any other topic I’ve written about.
The majority of messages are from musicians and orchestra managers, in Philadelphia and across the country, but many were from Philadelphia Orchestra patrons.
Another patron wrote in to comment on the letter he received in the mail. He was concerned about where the money for these letters is coming from:
“First, it’s a little weird that the Orchestra is using its money to send out these one-sided statements (They might be fair or not, but certainly they can speak only for one side of the conflict), when we perfectly well know that at some later date they will send out similar-looking letters asking for contributions. Do we want to think that contributions are going toward a public campaign against the union? At least the first paragraph says, in bold print, Please understand this is not a solicitation letter!“
Several other Philadelphia patrons wrote in with similar concerns: “If they are in such financial distress, why are they spending money on this publicity campaign.”
In order to find out the answer to that question, plus several more, I wrote to the designated media contact listed on the Philadelphia Orchestra “Negotiation Update” website, Steven Albertini.
Mr. Albertini did respond, but only briefly since he said he was just leaving for a long weekend. Detailed answers to my questions were forthcoming, but he did offer the following statement about why the POA board and management felt it was best to post their opinions on the orchestra’s website:
“The web site [www.philorch.org] is a communications medium operated by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, not the American Federation of Musicians, which represents our musicians in the collective bargaining process. Therefore, as it pertains to the negotiations, this web site contains information from the Association only.”
They say possession is 9/10ths of the law, and that’s the position the POA seems to be taking. But it’s a shame to see the POA treat the musicians as mere “employees”, when in fact they, as are the musicians in every orchestra, are so much more.
Quite a few emails I received from patrons also offered solutions to the problem, some simple and some quite complex. Even though the details of what each side in the negotiation is offering are sparse, this just goes to show how important this is to the Philadelphia classical music community.
You should also go give Peter Dobrin’s article about the situation in the 7/19/04 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer a read.
I especially like Peter’s opening paragraphs of the story. He does the situation a service by recalling the words from Joe Kluger and Richard Smoot following the last contract negotiation.
This is far from over. I just hope it’s an isolated case, but with nearly 40 ICSOM and ROPA orchestras engaged in contract negotiations, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more.
Who do you write to?
Another predominant question I’ve received is that people want to know who at the POA they should write to with their questions and concerns about this situation. The master contact list for the POA is available on their Administrative Staff listing page.
But here are a few shortcuts: