Breaking News From Detroit: Musicians Propose Returning To Work

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Musicians (DSO) issued a press statement at 1:00pm ET today stating they intend to hold a press conference at 2:00pm ET to announce that they are proposing to return to work under the conditions DSO management imposed in October that initiated the strike (last updated 6:50pm ET)…

The press statement reads as follow:

MEDIA ADVISORY 3/1/11

STRIKING MUSICIANS FROM THE DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY

Who: Musicians on strike with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, supporters and family members.

What: Local 5 of the American Federation of Musicians will announce the results of a membership vote taken today on a plan to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike by returning to work under the conditions management has imposed on the employees and without a new contract settlement.

When: 2 p.m., today, March 1, 2011

Where: The Max M. Fisher Music Center, 2711 Woodward, Detroit, MI 48201

Why: The musicians are eager to end this 22-week old strike and bring the orchestra back on stage in Orchestra Hall. They have been on strike since last October. The musicians went on strike because they feel as if the DSO Board and management implemented a contract proposal which would permanently change the DSO for the worse by turning it into a second-class institution. The musicians and their supporters recognize that the businesses and institutions of Midtown Detroit need the powerful engine of a vibrant DSO in their midst. Today’s press conference details their latest effort  to find a solution that ends the walkout.

I contacted Elizabeth Weigandt, DSO Director of Public Relations, to see if there is any response yet from management but have yet to receive a response. Check in throughout the day for continued developments and keep an eye on the local Detroit newspapers (News and Free Press) for additional details. A comment from the DSO is included in the two newspaper articles listed in the following paragraph.

Update 6:50pm ET: More details available thanks to articles in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. It is now clear that the musicians’ offer is tied to a binding arbitration component that allows each side to select an arbiter and in turn, those two individuals would select a third arbiter. Consequently, that panel would engage in a process to render a ruling which all parties agree in advance to abide by.

Given that trust – lack of and rebuilding –  has been a central issue in this dispute, this proposal presents a potentially unique solution that not only addresses the black and white issues at hand but could also contribute to rebuilding this necessary element.

The DSO issues the following statement on 6:45pm ET:

We were delighted to learn this afternoon that the musicians are prepared to return to work.  Although the terms of this return remain unclear, just after this unanticipated announcement, we immediately communicated with union attorney, Leonard Leibowitz, in an effort to understand the specific intentions of their news announcement of an “unconditional” return to work.  To move the process forward, we have offered some suggestions of our own on how we might proceed together and are looking forward to their response.

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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0 thoughts on “Breaking News From Detroit: Musicians Propose Returning To Work

  1. I believe that it may be inaccurate to say that the musicians are proposing to return to work under the conditions the DSO Management proposed back in October. In an article in the Detroit News, Michael Hodges says that “The arbitrators would work with the offers each side proposed in January before those talks failed.” Also, the musicians will only go back to work if management agrees to binding arbitration.

    From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110301/ENT01/103010419/DSO-musicians-vote-to-return-to-work-with-no-contract

  2. Thanks Greg, it isn’t inaccurate so much as unfinished as the musicians’ press statement mentioned nothing about the binding arbitration component, which was revealed later at the press conference. As an aside, in and of itself the proposal is very intriguing. In the history of this business, it is certainly unique and if the details can get worked out, it may be just the thing needed to help everyone get past these events.

  3. I just don’t see management doing this. This is based solely on opinion.

    Whether or not you believe in managements arguments that these changes were for the survival of the institution is irrelevant. Management believes their argument and they are not about to put the weight of those decision in the hands of binding arbitration. I just don’t see them doing it.

    Also I see this as a flinch in the musicians well stood stance. This got pushed to the abyss and the musicians made the first move to bring it back. Management has already, or at the least, called force majeure on a lot of their contracts this season. If the musicians have made a move, are they willing to take another? At what, not already spent, cost to the management? Just don’t see it.

    Although did the conflicting statements and lack of direct statements to DSO management show a division in the musician ranks?

  4. FYI: a number of the points you raised were addressed in my blog post from 3/2/2011: http://adaptistration.com/?p=10687

    Ultimately, anyone looking at this as a what you described as a flinch, or a crack, or whatever you want to call it is only playing into stereotypical negotiation posture; which is a never ending loop of “what else can I get from them” that ends in a very unhappy place.

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