As the lockout in Jacksonville enters into its second week, the local Jacksonville public and the orchestra field at large are looking for additional details that led to the first work stoppage of the season as well as where things are headed. In order to find out more details, I contacted the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) Association and tomorrow’s article will feature information from an interview with the musicians’ spokesperson…
I spoke with Alan Hopper, JSO Executive Director, by telephone on Monday 11/19/2007, who spoke on behalf of the JSO Association.
DM: Does the JSO board believe it is possible to reach an amicable resolution to the contract while rehearsals and performances are being canceled?
AH: The decision to cancel performances does make it much more difficult to obtain an amicable resolution and I think it is unfortunate that we’ve reached this point.
DM: Why did the executive board elect to cancel rehearsals and performances as opposed to play and talk?
AH: The board decided that until we have some kind of understanding from the musicians that we can have these discussions, the board will not reinstate performances.
DM: Could you define what you mean when using the term “understanding?”
AH: By understanding, I mean that we do have to have some kind of concessions from the musicians on the costs of managing the orchestra.
DM: In previous media reports, you’ve been quoted as saying that the JSO Association is attempting to create a new funding model, could you offer some details behind what that model would look like?
AH: Our industry has pretty much built its growth on expenses and what our board wants to base expenses by predicting sustainability and growth of future revenue streams. The budget projections over the next four to five years [based on using that model] demonstrated that we could balance our expenses and debt over that time period based on the offer we’ve presented to the musicians.
DM: Is the JSO Association concerned that this model might remove the musicians’ ability to influence the strategic evolution of the organization?
AH: I don’t know if our latest offer impacted the musicians’ ability to influence the evolution of the organization at all but it will impact our commitments in the future. However, we welcome the musicians’ input at any time.
DM: How do you respond to musician claims that the board could have done more to tap into the area’s growth since the beginning of this decade?
AH: Could contributions grown more since 2000, who knows? Instead, we are focused on our future and we hope we will be more successful than what we’ve projected.
Another issue being hotly debated between the JSO Association and the musicians is a disparity in the rate of growth between executive and base musician compensation and whether or not the organization is rewarding effort over achievement. According to the musicians’ website, the JSO’s fundraising income has “dropped by $130,000” since 2001. However, the musicians’ also claim that executive compensation during that same time period has increased by a much higher percentage than the musician base salary.
In fact, according to verifiable figures reported by the JSO Association in the IRS Form 990 from 1999/00 through 2004/05 seasons, Executive Director compensation increased 28.68 percent. Nevertheless, during the same period, verifiable figures reported by the American Federation of Musicians report that musician base salary increased 14.43 percent. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough verifiable data available at this point in time to support or refute either side’s take on fundraising efforts since 2001.
Is It a Lockout or a Strike?
On the surface, a strike and a lockout look very similar but the reality is that there there are some distinct differences. For example, on the most basic level strikes are initiated by workers and lockouts by employers. However, both forms of a work stoppage can be accompanied by suspension of pay and benefits as well as actions such as picketing, leafleting, and public statements.
In the case of Jacksonville, the situation is officially a lockout meaning all scheduled artistic services (rehearsals and performances) are canceled for a temporary period of time. According to Alan Hopper the JSO Association suspended operations following the musicians’ vote to decline the Association’s last, best, and final offer. However, Alan pointed in a communication following our interview that the musicians do have access to the concert hall in order to retrieve personal belongings from their backstage lockers.
Conversely, the musicians do not believe there should have been any suspended services as a result of their decision as they continue to be willing to engage the Association in negotiations but not under the terms dictated by the board. According to a written statement from the musicians, they are “committed to continued talks” and are dismayed that they “are being locked out because the symphony’s board has demanded pay cuts as a condition of agreeing not to shut down the symphony.”
UPDATE, 11/20/07, 10:53A.M. ET: In a Press Release dated 11/20, The Jacksonville Symphony Association announced the cancellation of a concert scheduled for November 25 as well as all Masterworks performances scheduled for November 29, 30 and December 1. Additional details are available at the orchestra’s website.