Perhaps Chairman Smoot STILL Wants A Strike

Drama seems to be the status quo in Philadelphia these past months.  Yesterday, the musicians and management agreed to extend the recent contract negotiation extension another 10 days.

Philadelphia Inquirer critic and columnist Peter Dobrin has been doing a great job keeping everyone informed of events over the past few days.  One of his recent articles reports that the Philadelphia Orchestra Association (management) turned down a recent offer by musicians to create a one year contract and instead proposed a final offer that was similar to their first contract offer. 

If those reports are accurate and management’s positions have changed very little over the course of the bargaining sessions, then it’s a very bad sign.  Some of the Philadelphia players have been quoted anonymously in the press as saying that they honestly feel like the POA wants them to go on strike. 

Absolutely no one wins in a scenario like that and the POA apparently isn’t thinking about this situation very dynamically.  Back in July, I wrote about the futility of forcing the players into a strike in an attempt to reduce expenditures enough to erase the current budget deficits. 

Throughout these talks I’ve witnessed the Philadelphia musicians make a number of constructive offers to help solve their organization’s current financial problems and be partners in creating a stable future.  The only issues they seem to be firmly against are those directly related to the artistic quality of the organization so if the POA refuses to meet them at a common ground all that’s left is a strike.

But what if the players don’t follow through with a strike the way the POA might anticipate?  What will management do if after they’ve saved the money they want from a strike but the musicians won’t settle?  What happens if the “controlled burn” of a forced strike turns into an uncontrollable inferno?

Have you ever heard of an inferno story with a happy ending before?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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