Following the 5/31/2011 bankruptcy hearing for the Louisville Orchestra (LO), which coincided with the expiration date of the organization’s collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association (LOMA) published a press statement claiming that the LO has “terminated all the orchestra’s musicians.”…
That section of the official press statement reads as follows:
As of midnight Tuesday, Louisville Orchestra manager Rob Birman told musicians the institution would “withdraw” all present and past offers of employment to the musicians, terminating all the orchestra’s musicians. Mr. Birman continues to receive his $115,000 annual salary, while the musicians are without pay or employer-subsidized health insurance and protection for the valuable instruments with which they perform in the orchestra. The bankruptcy plan the orchestra filed Tuesday asserted the institution commit itself to a budget equivalent to that put forward during the negotiations.
I contacted LO CEO Rob Birman for a response to the accusation and whether or not it is accurate, and he provided the following statement via email.
Thank you for asking. The short answer is “no.” There is nothing that has transpired that would give any person the notion that we have terminated anything. I believe the musician’s media statement is inaccurate, intentionally or otherwise.
Nonetheless, the musicians’ statement is very clear about what they perceive as a threat of being replaced with outside musicians.
Birman said at Saturday’s negotiations that the ensemble would attempt to staff its concerts with individual musicians working on a per-service basis.
In order to prevent any misunderstanding, that section was followed up with a account from American Federation of Musicians president, Ray Hair, that any such move likely be met with a swift response.
Yet Ray Hair, the American Federation of Musicians’ president, confirmed last week that such as action would likely place the Louisville Orchestra Inc. on the union’s unfair list.
In response to this position, I asked Birman for a reaction to the musician accounts from their last negotiation session and he offered the following:
What we have stated, in writing, in connection with our last, final and best proposal is as follows:
“If there is no agreement between the Orchestra and the Union and the LOMC, then, in that event, musicians will be hired for Louisville Orchestra programs and services on a per-service basis under pro-rated amounts, based on the weekly rates set forth in [our Last, Final and Best proposal].”
Ultimately, the big question here is whether or not the LO is considering and/or intends to hire non-union musicians for any summer or 2011/12 season concert events. In order to set aside the discrepancies between what the musicians assert was said during the last negotiation session and what Birman asserts the LO presented via written offer, I asked Birman if the LO intends on hiring non-union musicians outside the auspices of a collective bargaining agreement. Specifically, in the event the LO and its musicians are unable to come to an agreement on a new CBA, will the LO hire or consider hiring non-union musicians for any summer performances. Here’s Birman’s response.
The musicians will tell you themselves that I stated that we do not intend to work with non union musicians.
At the time this article was published, I have not yet had the time to ask the LOMA spokesperson for a response to this statement. If one is provided, the article will be updated with that information.
It seems that both sides in the dispute continue to be far enough apart that a resolution in the near future seems unlikely. The musicians assert they have offered additional concessions but management continues to insist on substantially reduced terms. When combined with the figurative tight rope walk that is semantics, the situation has the potential for becoming volatile.
Birman’s email response references their current terms which are available in a copy of their entire proposal at the orchestra’s website. However, it is worth noting that the document does not contain the typical reference indications of language which is new and/or edited compared to the previous agreement.
Both sides continue to assert that their offers provide a reasonable settlement for the organization to move forward. In the meantime, according to the 5/31/2011 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Elizabeth Kramer reports that the judge overseeing the bankruptcy case has scheduled the next hearings for 6/28/2011 and 7/26/2011.
An additional article from Elizabeth Kramer on 6/1/2011 provides more details as does a broadcast segment from WFPL News on 6/1/2011 by Gabe Bullard. What do you think is going on in Louisville?
0 thoughts on “Events Heat Up In Louisville”
At first glance, if both sides are to be taken at their word, the situation can best be summed up with a quote from the movie ‘Cool Hand Luke’. “What we have here, is a failure to communicate.”
One point, and this may give folks some further insight into how touchy the situation may (or may not) be as it’s no longer reflected on the front page of the LOMA, but the Louisville Orchestra had threatened the musicians for their usage of the “Louisville Orchestra” name. You can still see what was on the front page through a google cache page, but will quote here for your reader’s convenience:
Also, in the cached view a copy of the letter sent to the musicians is still available.
This was the main motivation for the musicians to start the “Keep Louisville Symphonic” website and organization.
Perhaps the musicians have gotten the “written permission” (see legal letter in cached view) or they are risking legal action in a last ditched effort to get their message out in as many venues as possible.
Hi Jon. You may see the Louisville Orchestra Proposal, Article 1.6 C if you would like clarification regarding the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association and “Keep Louisville Symphonic” It can be viewed here: http://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/wp-content/uploads/PROPOSED_AGREEMENT.pdf
And for those of you who don’t want to go hunting through the document, here’s a copy of that clause:
Drew do you or any of your readers have knowledge of any other orchestra cpntract that include similar language?
Since this is am unusually specific clause, it would be something I would have to research and I can say that I wouldn’t have the time to do a thorough investigation for awhile. As such, I hope we’ll hear from some readers and if they do chime in, please reference the respective collective bargaining agreement by name.
I guess I’m also wondering if any other orchesta has threatened their musicians in the way the LO did regarding usage of the orchestra name attached to the Musician’s association. I guess the clause in question shouldnt be too surprising given the nature of the threat of legal action for the name usage. Hope someone can shed some insight on either, or both, of these!
All I can say is Wow! I do hope someone has info about a clause so specific as this just seems so–really, I’m just speechless, Julia! I’m so sorry!
OK, let me get this straight: if no agreement is reached, management intends to hire musicians on a per-service basis according to conditions of a proposal that has not yet been ratified by the musicians? Are they even legally allowed to do that, or does that constitute a bad faith bargaining position?
Those are good questions Brian. If in fact the LO attempts to hire musicians under the terms of their last, best, and final offer without it being ratified by the musicians, meaning enforcing a contract, then that would be similar to what happened to the event in Detroit that sparked the strike. Assuming complaints/charges are filed,the National Labor Relations Board and/or the courts would decide whether or not any measures such as this are legal.
From Courier-Journal (Kramer) article on June 1 entitled “Louisville Orchestra Musicians Out of Work”(page 2).
He said the musicians’ news release had accurate information, “but we’re not put off by the press release. … And we have posted the complete three-year contract offer that we’ve offered our musicians on our website (www.louisvilleorchestra.org), so the public is free to judge for themselves the nature of what we’ve provided.”
It is unclear whether that response or the one to you was inaccurate, intentionally or otherwise.
The Detroit Symphony strike is now over. However, the orchestra will move forward without the concertmaster, principal flute and percussion section.
A member of the American Federation of Musicians would not perform in Louisville if it meant replacing a current orchestra member.
From Rob Birman’s reply to Drew McManus: “There is nothing that has transpired that would give any person the notion that we have terminated anything.”
What gave me, a (former?) violinist in the (former?) Louisville Orchestra the idea that they have “terminated anything” is that I no longer have health or instrument insurance, and I no longer get a paycheck from the LO.
If someone’s words seem confusing, examine that person’s actions.
I think it would be appropriate to name the board members and negotiators who formulate and set out this kind of thing, both in Louisville and in Syracuse, where I live. Our former newspaper publisher has been closely involved with the behind the scenes decision-making of our board, so there will be no names named, ever. I think the people who try to impose these preposterous work conditions upon valued members of their communities need to stand up in public and say why. If citizens of these communities disagree, they should be able to vote with their pocketbooks and social relationships.