Time To Begin Picking Up The Pieces In Richmond

Word on the street in Richmond, VA is the proposed legislation (VA HB 1254) to bar orchestra musicians from collecting unemployment during non-employed weeks is ostensibly dead in the water. The representative responsible for introducing the legislation, at the behest of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra (RSO) board and executive director, officially withdrew it from consideration by the state’s Commerce and Labor Sub-Committee; but now, the real fun begins.

In a letter to its musicians, the RSO board implied that if the legislation failed, the $70,000 they hoped to save via reduced unemployment obligations will have to be recouped during the traditional negotiation process. It’s also worth pointing out that the RSO board has already stated that they intend to secure $350,000 in cuts by the end of the negotiation cycle (which included the $70k).

Determination notwithstanding, it’s rare for either stakeholder to exit concessionary negotiations having secured the vast majority of everything they intended to secure.

But one unusual variable in this scenario that might make the board’s task more challenging than usual is both sides enter talks with an unusually high degree of fresh animosity; whether or not that will influence how negotiations unfold is something that time will tell. Hopefully, both sides have filed the requisite paperwork to make sure the Federal Mediation & Conciliation (FMCS) is on notice.

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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