It seems that the Louisville Orchestra (LO) labor dispute has moved to a new level following a letter signed by LO Chief Executive Officer Robert Birman and addressed to each of the orchestra’s musicians (Hat Tip to Jon Silpayamanant). In a nutshell, the letter explains that unless the recipient returns a signed statement that they are willing to “participate in future Louisville Orchestra concerts and rehearsals” the organization will interpret such response as a “voluntary refusal to work.”…
Moreover, if the recipient does accept the terms but fails to attend all scheduled services, the organization will also interpret such actions as an “as an abandonment of your employment.” It’s important to note here, for those who may not be aware, that the LO and its musicians are currently without a collective bargaining agreement and the organization is amidst Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, labor relations have been tense over the past several months and it is difficult to imagine where this letter will have much impact beyond agitating an already volatile situation. If anything, it moves events into the purview of the lawyers.
A transcribed copy of the letter is currently available at a Louisville Orchestra musician’s Facebook notes and is posted below for reference.
Dear Jennifer Shackleton:
Our counsel was advised by counsel to the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, Local 11-637 and the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Committee that the Louisville Orchestra should contact you directly to confirm your willingness and commitment to appear for upcoming Orchestra performances and rehearsals. That being the case, this letter is to confirm your willingness and commitment to perform at future Louisville Orchestra concerts and rehearsals, or your refusal to do so.
If you are willing and intend to accept the assignments listed below, and if you are selected for such assignment(s), you will be paid a pro-rated per-service rate based on the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement and you will be paid in accordance with the terms of the expired Agreement. You will not, however, receive payment under a per-service model for any benefits under the expired Agreement, nor will benefit payments be made to any fund on your behalf. Benefits will only be available through a ratified collective bargaining agreement.
Please indicate your willingness and commitment to participate in future Louisville Orchestra concerts and rehearsals by marking “Yes” or “No” beside each scheduled performance and rehearsal. A “Yes” will indicate your willingness and commitment to work under the terms above. A “No” will indicate your refusal to work. Not marking either choice will be treated as a refusal to work. [Then it lists the 159 services offered for next season.]
The Louisville Orchestra management, in consultation with the Music Director, will determine how many musicians will be selected. If fewer musicians are selected than those who are willing to work, the final selection for employment will be based on the individual musician’s section seating order, consistent with the Orchestra’s established practice for performance assignments.
If you indicate a willingness to work and you are selected to perform, your failure to appear and perform will be treated as an abandonment of your employment, absent a prearranged approval with the Louisville Orchestra management excusing you from such obligation. If you fail to indicate either “Yes” or “No” for any performance, that will be treated as a voluntary refusal to work. In such event, the Louisville Orchestra will take whatever steps are legally appropriate to fill your position. Similarly, if you indicate a refusal to appear and play the scheduled performance, the Louisville Orchestra will take whatever steps are legally appropriate to fill your position.
You must indicate your commitment as requested in this letter, execute and date the letter in the space provided below for your signature and return the executed letter to the Louisville Orchestra office no later than 5:00pm Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Failure to return a copy of this letter with your commitments identified by this date will be treated as a voluntary refusal to work at the scheduled performances.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Robert A. Birman
Chief Executive Officer