“kids at Christmas with no presents” In Jacksonville

Recently, an email message from Tom Beames, Jacksonville Symphony Association (JSA) Executive Board member and Vice Chair of Artistic Affairs, to his fellow JSA Board members generated a great deal of attention when the message (in part and in whole) began appearing at several online discussion boards, including the JSO Lockdown Facebook group. In that email message, Vice Chair Beames congratulates JSA Board Chair Jim Van Vleck and Executive Director Alan Hopper "on standing firm and showing strength" during the December 14 bargaining session. However, Vice Chair Beames also expresses belief that "the heartstrings
of kids at Christmas with no presents certainly will have an impact" on
the $60,000 in differences between the current offers from the JSA and
the Jacksonville Symphony Players’ Association (JSPA)…

Although Vice Chair Beames’ latter comment could certainly be construed
as inflammatory language capable of escalating the ongoing conflict,
his was only one of several email messages in that extended thread.
Indeed, all five messages provide an unfiltered look into the rationale
behind the JSA Executive Committee’s bargaining position. For the
benefit of readers, the entire extended thread has been assembled here
for review.

The email messages began on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 when Sally Pettegrew, JSO Director of Administration, sent an message with the subject "pre-Christmas update from Jim VV" to members of the JSA Board of Directors. This list included past-presidents, one of which is Jacksonville Mayor John S. Peyton, who served as JSA board president from 2000-2002. Ms. Pettegrew’s original email and no less than two responses from current JSA board members were made available as part of Mayor Peyton’s Public Records email folder.

The contents of all five email messages have been saved as an image and embedded into an Adobe pdf file (Adobe Reader, a free program, is required to view the documents). Additionally, whenever an email message contained an attachment, that attachment has been inserted at the end of the respective pdf file. In addition to the pdf files, the following is Vice Chair Beames’ email message – the second in the thread which was sent exactly 10 minutes after the initial message – in its entirety:

Sally, please pass along to Jim?

Alan and Jim, we’re receiving word from the musicians that we’re "only" $60m a year away from agreement. Congratulations on standing firm and showing strength.

I think we may start to see some crack in the dyke on this "only $x" issue, and the heartstrings of kids at Christmas with no presents certainly will have an impact.

I would like you to know that I again stand by our proposal and agree we must remain firm to ensure the viability of the Symphony.

Good luck, and Happy Holidays.


Sent via Blackberry

The following table lists all of the messages from the extended email threads:



























Message Author Date/Time Synopsis
#1 Sally Pettegrew 12/19/2007, 3:49 PM Includes a negotiation update from JSA Board Chair Jim Van Vleck and two attachments. Van Vleck acknowledges that board members are receiving many emails and although they are setting up a system for them to be forwarded to the executive board for "appropriate response or disposal" and that board members can "always just hit ‘delete’" on their own.
#2 Tom Beames 12/19/2007, 3:59 PM Includes "kids at Christmas with no presents" remark.
#3 Sally Pettegrew 12/19/2007, 4:10 PM Includes an attachment that was intended to go out with the first message.
#4 Sally Pettegrew 12/19/2007, 4:23 PM Includes the details to the system for handling email messages suggested in Van Vleck’s message (Message #1 above).
#5 Steve Halverson 12/19/2007, 6:37 PM Includes several statements of support to fellow board members and that any remaining negotiation points not be treated as issues which necessitate compromise. Consequently, the board should remain firm in their last, best final financial offer (from November 12, 2007).

None of the email messages or attachments mentions the proposed cancellation of musician health care coverage at the end of December or the possibility of extending coverage to the end of January as a sign of good faith following recent musician concessions. In general, the responses from board members Beames and Halverson convey a sense of indignation toward compromising on any outstanding items with musicians and that the board dismiss any such considerations.

Future articles will cover some of the detailed information included in these email message and attachments but until then, don’t miss the opportunity to review all of the information first hand by downloading the above attachments. In the meantime, post a comment on your thoughts and observations on the JSO negotiations and these email messages.

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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6 thoughts on ““kids at Christmas with no presents” In Jacksonville”

  1. While your
    Negotiating Committee believes that the Association has a cash windfall, we have
    experienced a cash outflow from patron requests for refunds and a reduction in
    contributed income. This reduction in our cash position has largely offset the
    savings from Musicians’ salaries.

    I find this very interesting – does this mean that the orchestra now miraculously breaks even vis a vis musicians’ salaries vs. earned income?

  2. My perception of the standard union-busting model:

    1. Take the hardest line possible when dealing with the union and presenting an offer.
    2. Draw out the dispute as long as possible.
    3. If the union caves, management wins. If they don’t, negotiate, compromise, and present the board with the compromise as the best solution possible under the circumstances.

    In these days of high executive salaries, I wouldn’t be surprised if, should management win, much of the orchestra’s “savings” would be payable to executives as a “performance bonus”.

    What I find upsetting about this whole process is that board members seem to be taking the approach of treating unions the way they would in, say, a manufacturing business.

    You can’t apply that kind of union-busting model to orchestras, especially when their financial survival depends on the output of the musicians to enhance the organization’s role in the community at large and garner donations from individuals and comapnies.

    By the way, you might see a similar dispute to this played out elsewhere in 2008…

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