It seems that the board of the Richardson Symphony Orchestra (RSO) has decided to discontinue bargaining with their musicians in advance of the current collective bargaining agreement expiration date of August 31, 2010. They also informed patrons in a letter dated 7/1/2010 that in addition to suspending negotiations, they “will not be renegotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Musician.” UPDATE: 4:00pm CT, 7/2/2010 – AFM places Richardson Symphony Orchestra on their International Unfair List…
The following is a copy of the RSO board letter forwarded to me by an RSO patron:
July 1, 2010
Dear Friends of the Richardson Symphony:
On behalf of the Board of Directors and the staff at the RSO, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all you’ve done to support the Richardson Symphony this past year and for your help in making possible the beautiful concerts we’ve all enjoyed. We know it’s been a challenging year for you, as it has been for the Richardson Symphony, and we acknowledge the important role that each of you played in helping your orchestra through these difficult times.
As we reported to the Board of Directors at our last meeting on June 21, we do anticipate better financial days ahead. In fact, the RSO may end this year with a small surplus (but not enough to make up for our over $100,000 deficit last year, unfortunately) and we have planned next year to also end in a surplus so that we can continue to work to pay off all indebtedness. It is our goal to get the RSO out of the hole and into the position where we can start building a significant cash reserve by the end of our 2011-2012 season—our 50th year!.
There is also a major strategic review underway that will likely lead to a very different Richardson Symphony…one that is much better positioned to grow and prosper in the coming years. This may mean “rebranding” the orchestra, playing in different venues, a different mix of concert types and many other changes that we can’t even imagine at this point. At the end of this review, we will emerge a stronger, more relevant and more exciting orchestra for our audiences for the next 50 years!
Some of these changes have already begun and we wanted to let our friends and supporters know of a major item coming up this summer: For the 2010-2011 season and beyond, we will not be renegotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Musicians. Rather, we will ask each musician to execute a personal services agreement directly with the RSO. This means that, after the current union contract expires on August 31st, the RSO will become a non-union orchestra. Please note that each musician will be offered the same rate of pay that they were getting under the union contract.
This new arrangement offers a variety of benefits to the RSO and to its musicians:
- Improves communications between players, orchestra management, and the Board;
- The opportunity for more work for each musician as we work to increase our contract performance business;
- Flexibility for the RSO to take advantage of opportunities from changing market conditions;
- Greater opportunities for taking advantage of new and different ways of distributing our concerts and
- Perhaps most important, an opportunity for us all to build true esprit d’corp and pride in the RSO and to work together to make our performances better and better each and every year.
As the RSO becomes a non-union orchestra, we fully expect there to be some players who will not want this change to take place. We should all expect for there to be leafleting and other union demonstrations at our concerts coming up this fall. However, we are committed to this course and believe it is the very best decision for the long-term health and vitality of the symphony. We will keep you apprised of any developments on this matter, as well as other changes and opportunities we may be facing as they come along.
In the meantime, should you have any questions or wish to discuss any of these matters in greater detail, just give me a call. I’ll be glad to talk with you at anytime.
All the best,
Although there is no official response to the letter above from the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians, the office which represents the RSO musicians, issued the following news memo on 7/1/2010 detailing an incident on 6/30/2010 where three of its representatives were barred from attending an orchestra meeting by local police (in response to requests from RSO management):
POLICE BARRED ORCHESTRA REPS AT RSO MEETING LAST NITE
RICHARDSON SYMPHONY BOARD: “NO MORE UNION CONTRACT”
UNION WANTS RSO PLACED ON INTERNATIONAL UNFAIR LIST
WHO: Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association, affiliated Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians, which represents more than 1700 professional musicians across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma, including musicians of the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras, The Dallas Opera Orchestra and the Richardson Symphony Orchestra.
WHAT: Local 72-147 has requested that the Richardson Symphony, Inc. be placed on the AFM’s International Unfair List.
WHY: RSO management called a June 30 orchestra meeting at the offices of Alliance Data in Richardson, purportedly to discuss “structural changes” to its operations. Union representatives Ray Hair, Karen Schnackenberg and Principal trumpeter Bert Truax showed up but were barred from the meeting by a sheriff’s deputy who called Dallas Police to the scene. Police, acting on RSO’s orders, refused to allow union reps and orchestra member Truax into the meeting despite the existence of a collective bargaining agreement between RSO and the musicians’ union designating Local 72-147 as the orchestra’s exclusive representative. RSO members in attendance reported that management officials said the meeting was called to repudiate the company’s contractual relationship with the union, and to advise that it would refuse to negotiate with the union upon expiration of the existing contract on August 31. RSO’s actions have prompted the union to request RSO’s placement upon the AFM’s International Unfair list, which triggers the possibility of fines of up to $50,000 and/or expulsion for unionists who work for employers so listed. RSO members leafleted concertgoers at a May 8 performance to protest management’s late wage payments – weeks and months delinquent – for most concerts over the past two years. A sound clip of Conductor Anshel Brusilow’s abusive rant
toward principal trumpeter Bert Truax who protested RSO’s shabby treatment toward the orchestra, has drawn worldwide attention toward the struggle by RSO musicians to get paid on time and to rehearse and perform with without insults.
It’s worth noting here that Ray Hair, president of Local 72-147 is also the international president elect of the American Federation of Musicians. Hair was voted into office on 6/24/2010.
UPDATE: 4:00pm CT, 7/2/2010
The following letter by Local 72-147 American Federation of Musicians and AFM International President elect Ray Hair was distributed to AFM members on 7/2/2010:
This is to advise you that Richardson Symphony, Inc., has been placed on the AFM’s International Unfair List, effective July 1, 2010. Click here to see the official notice posted on our website. Click here to see our press release in the matter.
Effective with this Unfair List placement, AFM members who work for or with RSO are subject to fines of up to $50,000.00 and/or expulsion. If you are presented with a Personal Services Contract for RSO services, please do not sign it. By attempting to obtain your signature on such a contract, RSO is attempting to interfere in your right under the law to engage in concerted union activities, and to minimize its exposure to the consequences of their actions.
Accordingly, we will be contacting current and prospective RSO patrons, supporters, and professional musicians everywhere to publicize the nature of our dispute, to discourage attendance at RSO concerts and to impair and inhibit RSO’s anti-union crusade. We will make it clear to all concerned that by attempting to destroy the orchestra, the RSO is destroying itself.
We will establish primary picket lines and leaflet all RSO services, and we will demonstrate that nothing can withstand the power of our music or hundreds or even thousands of us joined together to resist RSO abuse, and to insist on fairness and justice from Anshel Brusilow, George Landis, RSO’s management and its Board of Directors.