In what could be considered a metaphorical shot heard ’round the world, the Louisville Orchestra (LO) sent a letter to musicians dated 10/24/2011 informing them that if they acknowledge that they are “ready to work and accept, unconditionally, the terms and conditions outlined in [the] individual offer of employment” by 5:00pm CT, October 31, 2011 they will be replaced.
The three page letter was distributed the same day that the organization apparently began to officially accept applications for permanent replacement musicians. Much of the letter appears to rely on intimidation as it does mission driven rationale in order to persuade musicians to agree to the individual employment offer.
Page 1, Paragraph 4: The LOI will begin soliciting applications for permanent replacements for open positions on October 24, 2011. Unless we receive an affirmative notice from you by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 31, 2011 that you intend to return to work with the LOI, we will treat such lack of notice as your intention to continue to with hold your labor.
Likewise, artistic excellence seems to have taken a secondary position to high pressure tactics in that the LO intends to assign positions for replacement musicians based more on a first come, first serve basis rather than artistic objectivity.
Page 1, Paragraph 4: Priority for section seating will be considered based on the date and time such notices are received by the LOI office.
Page 1, Paragraph 5: If the LOI hires a permanent replacement for your position and you subsequently make an unconditional offer to return to work, you will only be eligible for a vacant position for which you are qualified to fill.
Page 3, Paragraph 1: Priority for section seating will be considered based on the date and time such notices are received by the LOI office.
UPDATE 9:55am CT: my interview with Joe Elliott on 10/26/11 at 970WGTK about the LO situation is now available:
The interview took place live during the 2:00-3:00pm ET hour of Joe’s show and the version below has been edited down to just the Louisville Orchestra segment; to listen to the entire hour, you can download the clip here. Many thanks to Mr. Elliott for devoting so much time to better understanding a very complex set of issues.
There is no mention whether any replacement workers will be hired under a collective bargaining agreement; in fact, the final page of the letter contains what the LO has labeled an “Employment Acceptance Form.” However, basic terms are spelled out on page 2:
- Base weekly minimum salary per musician of $925 per week, for fifty (50) musicians
- 30 weeks of annual employment and public programming
- Comprehensive insurance benefits identical to those provided in the recently-expired, collective bargaining agreement between AFM, LOMC and LOI
Permanent employment will be offered for the following positions:
- String: Ten (10) first violins; Eight (8) second violins; Five (5) violas; Five (5) cellos; Three (3) basses
- Woodwinds: Three (3) flutes; Two (2) oboes; Two (2) clarinets; Two (2) bassoons
- Brass: Four (4) horns; Two (2) trumpets; Two (2) trombones
- Percussion: One (1) timpani; One (1) percussion
Similarly, it appears that the LO intends to move forward as a non-union orchestra.
Page 1, Paragraph 3: We do not require any musician to resign their Union membership in order to work for the LOI nor do we require musicians who work for the LOI to retain Union membership. Union membership and the related implications are a personal choice.
Some select legalese exists throughout the letter, most notably multiple instances that the current work stoppage is a result of the musicians withholding their services. In essence, the LO’s letter is designed to affirm their stance that the musicians are on strike, a charge that the musicians have denied. This is important because of the ongoing struggle over whether or not the musicians can claim unemployment benefits.
Page 1, Paragraph 3: If you prefer to retain your current position in the LOI, the Board and management of LOI welcome your election to work.
Page 1, Paragraph 4: Unless we receive an affirmative notice from you by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 31, 2011 that you intend to return to work with the LOI, we will treat such lack of notice as your intention to continue to with hold your labor.
Page 3, Paragraph 1: Unless we receive an affirmative notice from you by 5:00 p.m. on October 31, 2011 that you intend to return to work with the LOI, we will treat such lack of notice as your intention to continue to withhold your labor.
Page 3, Paragraph 2, Sentence 1: If you indicate a willingness to work, and fail to appear and perform, your absence will be treated as your election to continue to withhold your labor.
Page 3, Paragraph 2, Sentence 3: Failure to return a copy of this letter with your commitment by the date above will be treated as a refusal to work.
Page 3, Second of Two Options: NO. I voluntarily refuse to work or to accept the terms and conditions outlined in my individual offer of employment dated October 24, 2011.
In the end, this is an unprecedented event in the field and although there is a slim ray of hope that the LO will retract the letter and return to mediated bargaining, it is increasingly unlikely. From this point forward, it’s all unchartered waters, which means there are plenty of questions.
- Will the AFM respond with a similar level of aggressive tactics?
- Will some of the LO musicians return an employment agreement before the deadline; if so, how many?
- Will the LO release application material and job descriptions for the replacement musicians?
- Will the LO release details on how they plan to evaluate applications and whether they intend to conduct a traditional audition?
- Will audition and concert events be accompanied by musician demonstrations?
- How will social media influence events (remember the Sarah Chang debacle in Detroit)?
Tomorrow’s article will examine some of these questions in addition to exploring some logistics within these unknowns but until then, what do you think about all of this?