A recent article by Scott Cantrell in the 1/11/06 edition of The Dallas Morning News is an excellent example of some good, simple cultural reporting…
The article reports the recent agreement between the Dallas Opera and their orchestra over a new a new, five year collective bargaining agreement. I point to this piece as a good example of cultural reporting because the article includes a number of key components that not only fill you in on what happened but give you a strong indication of what to watch for in the future. Furthermore, Scott did all of this in the space of only 300 words.
If you’re new to the details, you quickly learn that the bargaining hurdles were not only improvements to base compensation but how many musicians the contract would employ. Additionally, from management’s perspective, they had to agree on a contract that the organization could afford to honor after recently emerging from a cycle of running deficits.
Scott includes a number of quotes from individuals directly involved in bargaining that also have permission to speak on behalf of their respective sides in the negotiation. For the Dallas Opera, Scott quoted Karen Stone, the organization’s general director. For the musicians, he quoted Ray Hair, president of Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians.
Perhaps the best bit in the entire article came from the final paragraph where Ray Hair mentions that the issue of reducing the core from 57 to 53 via attrition was a sincere sticking point with the musicians. The article quotes Ray saying “the closeness of the vote was indicative of strong opposition to the core reduction.”
This is a fantastic example of things to come and that a five year agreement is no guarantee to either side that these issues are settled with the ratification of the contract. For the board and executive management of the Dallas Opera, they need to be aware that during the next five years, they’ll need to begin demonstrating that they either intend to keep that core size down or make it known to the entire organization that they plan to actively search for new revenue streams to return the core to it is previous minimum.
If they decide on the former course of action and the musicians are displeased by their attitude and/or tangible results from their efforts, the close results from this recent contract ratification may explode into an open labor conflict and/or long term feelings of resentment and betrayal. All of which will result in tougher labor negotiations down the road.
I think Ray Hair deserves special recognition for making sure he released the information about the ratification vote and Scott Cantrell deserves an equal amount of recognition for finding a way to include it in an all-too-confining format of 300 words.
The national elections from last week should be a strong sign that closely divided results are no indication of a clear mandate or a winning strategy in the mind’s of the voters. If anything, the close calls tend to polarize sides in a debate and serve as a strong indication that the current solutions are, at best, temporary in nature and are waiting to be replaced by an as-of-yet-undefined acceptable remedy.
Ideally, the narrow ratification vote will inspire all parties to begin looking for new solutions and taking concrete steps toward implementing as quickly as possible. In this case, actions speak louder than words.
If you’re a Dallas Opera patrons and/or donor, these are precisely the sort of events you’ll want to keep your eye on over the next few years.
On a slightly related topic, I’m curious to know how you would rate the Dallas Morning New article examined in this post? Do you think it is “positive” or “negative” press for the Dallas Opera in particular and the classical music industry in general? Please take a second and vote via this simple survey: click here
We’ll explore these answers, and this topic, in more detail after this week.