Details Surrounding San Antonio’s Settlement

On Monday September 3, 2007 the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony orchestra (SAS) ratified a new four year agreement with their employer, the San Antonio Symphony Society…

Although it came down to the few remaining hours of the previous contract before the new settlement was reached, the San Antonio Symphony society and its musicians came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement which provides improvements in season length, base pay, and health care allowance for each year of the contract. Furthermore, management’s proposal to reduce the number of full time musicians in exchange for meeting some of the musicians’ proposals during the final week of negotiations appears to have been phased out of the final agreement as the number of full time musicians in the orchestra remains unchanged for the duration of the contract’s term.

The following chart highlights some of the components from the new four year agreement:

The good news for San Antonio is that there will be no interruption in scheduled concerts, including the Opening Gala on September 16, 2007 featuring Itzhak Perlman (click here for additional details and to purchase tickets). Furthermore, it appears that the extended touch-and-go negotiations appear to have not had any detrimental impact on labor relations.

In a statement released by the SAS players’ association, negotiating committee chair and SAS bassoonist, Brian Petkovich, said "This is a win-win result which has created greater two-way respect and appreciation between management and the musicians, much to the benefit of the community. I join my colleagues in saying that we look forward to an upcoming season of providing the finest musical performances in the world to our loyal San Antonio audiences."

Sasquotenoble_2SAS bassoonist and AFM Local 23 president, Ron Noble, echoed those sentiments and added, "First I want to thank the members of the Orchestra Committee, who sacrificed many hours of volunteer time over six months, for their resolve, courage, unity, and hard work in achieving this settlement. In addition I want to thank the loyal Union members of the symphony orchestra for their patience and solidarity, and our many friends in both the San Antonio labor community and the community at large for their support, without which this would not have been accomplished. "

When asked how the SAS Society moved from what appeared to be a publicly entrenched position with regard to issues of weekly base pay and season length to where they ended up in the final agreement, SAS President & CEO, David Green, did not respond to requests for comment. However, SAS board chair Ken Oleson belayed fears that the organization was making promises it had no intention of keeping when he issued the following statement in a recent press release,

"The Symphony can be assured of moving forward with a financially sound and viable future. That has been the spirit of the negotiations, and that overriding viewpoint has enabled us to get the agreement done."

The impact of the negotiations has been felt outside of the immediate San Antonio area throughout various levels of the business. When asked about the settlement Bruce Ridge, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM; an organization which the SAS Musicians are members) chair and bassist in the North Carolina Symphony, said,  "The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony have been an inspiration to me and to all of their colleagues in ICSOM. Throughout this difficult negotiation, the Musicians’ leadership has been dedicated and innovative. The musicians of the orchestra have built an even stronger relationship with the citizens of their city, and they have demonstrated their deep level of service and commitment to their community."

Ridge continued by talking about some time he spent with the organization last November, "I experienced first hand just what a world-class symphony orchestra the city of San Antonio has in their midst. I hope that with the news of this contract settlement, there will be a new period of unprecedented growth for the orchestra. This wonderful orchestra can bring even greater acclaim to their beautiful city, and I eagerly look forward to visiting San Antonio again to help celebrate many successes."

Ideally, this settlement will serve as a precursor to several other orchestras negotiations that are rapidly approaching the same precipice San Antonio faced less than a week ago. 

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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