Negotiation News From Wisconsin

According to statements from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) and the Musicians of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the organization is planning to present their Holiday Pops Concert scheduled for November 29 and 30, 2008. WCO musicians have been on strike since the beginning of October but both sides agreed to presenting the holiday concerts due to progress made in recent bargaining sessions…

WCO inches closer to an agreement with musicians
WCO inches closer to an agreement with musicians

According to a musician spokesperson, the players are happy that the concerts will go on; however, they assume that negotiations will continue in the good faith manner that was experienced during the first full week of November. According to a press release issues by the WCO, the organization’s executive director, Doug Gerhart, is quoted saying the orchestra is “delighted to be able to produce our Holiday Pops concert to kick off the holiday season” but there were no quotes regarding negotiation progress.

At the heart of negotiations are contractual issues related to job security, attendance, and electronic media. According to sources inside the negotiations, reasonable progress has been made on the first issue but both sides have yet to make the same amount of progress on the latter two.

It is good to see both sides meeting each other in the middle to such a point where they can engage in performances. Typically, quality holiday concerts are an important part of an orchestra’s programming as it opens up a larger pool of potential ticket buyers. Given what is already known about the unresolved issues, both sides could easily come to an agreement and ratify a new master agreement if the organization adopts language used by a majority of their peers.

Although it can be difficult to extract a particular component in order to evaluate it with a fresh perspective at this stage in negotiations, it would be in the organization’s best interests to do exactly that. Ultimately, it might help everyone see that a final agreement isn’t about give and take so much adopting standard practices.

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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