Latest Strike News

On Thursday, October 2, 2008 the musicians of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra (SSO) went on strike. After approximately one year of bargaining sessions which failed to produce a new collective bargaining agreement, SSO presented musicians on 6/1/2008 with individual agreements entitled “SHREVEPORT SYMPHONY, INC. – MUSICIAN AGREEMENT” which state terms of compensation through 2011… However, a musician spokesperson has stated that these agreements do not supplant the collective bargaining agreement and were only to maintain each musician’s position in the orchestra. In a press release issues by the musicians, their negotiator, Chris Durham, explained the individual contracts as being more like a letter of intent.

“The musicians were issued individual musician agreements earlier this summer,” said Durham. “This document is more like a letter of intent, assuring the individual musicians a position in the orchestra. The Master Agreement is the controlling document which governs wages and terms and conditions of employment covering the collective or bargaining unit. The musicians had no choice but to sign these documents if they were to remain members of the orchestra, even though we believe they were issued illegally by management. Had an individual musician not signed their agreement, management could have assumed that the musician was not planning to return for the next season, vacated the musicians chair and held an audition to replace them. This is the standard mechanism to replace a musician who does not return for the following season.”

In fact, the individual agreement issued by the SSO clearly states that “All terms and conditions of employment between Shreveport Symphony, Inc. and [individual musician name], dated June 1, 2008 are set forth in the MASTER BARGAINING AGREEMENT…” Nevertheless, according to an article by Donecia Pea in the 10/03/08 edition of the Shreveport Times, the SSO’s attorney claims that they were “not properly notified of the strike” and that the organization will “consider all options if they don’t comply with the contract and law.”

The SSO’s season gala takes place on Saturday, 10/18/08 although the musicians have scheduled a benefit concert supporting hurricane relief through the Red Cross and the ongoing needs of musicians on Saturday, 10/11/08.

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Strike News

WCO musicians on the picket line
WCO musicians on the picket line

Shortly after the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) musicians conducted their first strike action, WCO management released a statement claiming that the musicians have “walked away from an employment proposal that offered increased wages, a new pension plan, increased guaranteed work, doubled mileage reimbursement, a job security clause, and countless other contract concessions.”

Multiple interview requests to obtain details on the issues above with WCO Executive Director, Doug Gerhart, have gone unreturned. In the meantime, the WCO musicians engaged in strike activity outside their primary venue, the Overture Center, on the evening of their season’s first concert. Additionally, the musicians held a free concert on 10/3/08 featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.

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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