Get On Board The Redline Express!

At the end of last month, I published an article that examined the value of comprehensive perspective when it comes to considering proposed changes in collective bargaining agreements. Since then, I have obtained a copy of the complete redline agreement the Minnesota Orchestra submitted to musicians as their last official offer (which was subsequently voted down on 9/29/12) and concluded it would be educational to begin examining the document here at Adaptistration.

The document has been verified as complete and accurate by official representatives from both the Minnesota Orchestra (MO) and the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians (MOM); my thanks to both groups for their cooperation.

What Is A Redline Contract?

Simply put, a redline contract (sometimes called markup or strikeout) is a version of proposed modifications that show:

  • The original language.
  • Modifications in the form of strikeout and bold formatting; the former being a removal with the later an addition or modification.

Depending on where the revision process is, redline contracts come in varying degrees of detail but it is normal for final versions to include every possible change, right down to modified section and subsection numbering. The MO redline agreement used for these purposes is an example of the latter.

The Goal

What I hope to accomplish with this endeavor is to provide a broader and more thorough understanding of the dynamic issues that go into a labor dispute. It’s much more than just compensation, benefits, musician compliment, and season length.

Moreover, collective bargaining agreements (CBA) in this field are anything but one size fits none documents crammed full of boilerplate language. Instead, most provide a type of evolutionary record of the respective ensemble’s history. Examining a CBA with this degree of transparency is just as much institutional archaeology as it is legal review or political debate.

We’ll be digging through each section of the agreement, stopping along the way to examine proposed changes and to provide an insider’s point of view. We’ll endeavor to understand why clauses exist in the first place and what each side perceives as beneficial or injurious by modifying, eliminating, or leaving it untouched.

I also want to step outside of the world of sound bites, spin, and emotionally charged rhetoric by embracing a practical, evenhanded examination of the specific contractual language at core of this dispute. Knowledge truly is power and anyone passionate about the field should find something of value throughout this process.

Ground Rules

The MO and MOM have indicated a degree of willingness to provide additional insight, justification, and rationale behind why changes have been presented and/or why changes are opposed. This input will be included wherever possible; similarly, spokespersons for both sides have been invited to leave comments at any respective article to offer additional insight and clarification.

MO stakeholders (musician, management, board, or patron) are welcome to leave comments as well but if you are a current or former musician, manager, or board member or are related to one, please make that known in your comment.

Given the degree of emotion surrounding some of the issues we’ll be examining, I respectfully request that all readers resist the temptation to submit a comment when upset. But do know that all comments are moderated and the blog’s comment policy will be evenly and thoughtfully employed; if you aren’t already familiar with Adaptistration’s comment policy, thank you in advance for taking a moment to review (located in the “Blog Policy” tab).

Having made that clear, I want to strongly encourage every reader to participate in comment discussions. Ask questions, challenge ideas, and contribute in a meaningful way to something that will be a genuinely radical enterprise unlike anything the field has experienced. Simply put, you don’t want to regret missing out on something like this.

Publication Schedule

There won’t be any firm schedule to all of this; instead, the number and frequency of articles will be published, in part, based on how much time I can allocate and reader feedback (I’ll keep an eye on metrics as well). However, posts will include some sort of catchy (or at least easily identifiable) tag to let you know it is part of the series.

This sort of endeavor has never been tried before mostly because obtaining a copy of a complete redline agreement, even after a contentious dispute settles, is next to unheard of.

As a result, we’re going to treat this opportunity as the rare find it is and resist the temptation to favor quantity over quality. That means there may be a bit of flexibility in how everything unfolds but every effort will be made to maintain as much consistency as possible in format and style.

However, I can say that the first installment won’t be published until after I return from the Institute of Outdoor Drama’s conference in Lake George, NY next week.

Download Your Very Own Copy

You didn’t think I was going to keep the document under lock and key, did you? Of course not! But I am trying something new by providing access via social action; all you have to do is Like, Tweet, Follow, or Share via any of the options in the following blue box in order to access the download.

[social-download button_id=”6fa40a3de4cf44280″ dl_id=”” theme=”blue” message=”Get social to download the MO redline agreement.” facebook=”true” likeurl=”CURRENT” google=”false” tweet=”true” tweettext=”I just downloaded the @mn_orchestra redline agreement at @adaptistration!” tweeturl=”CURRENT” follow=”true” linkedin=”true” linkedinurl=”CURRENT”/]

But Wait, There’s More!

I won’t be the only one taking a look at the MO redline contract; conductor Bill Eddins has a copy too and plans on sharing some insight as well. The publication schedule there is TBD but you can follow all of his posts over at Sticks and Drones (or simply sign up for the email notices to make sure you don’t miss anything!).

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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2 thoughts on “Get On Board The Redline Express!”

  1. Drew, thank you for taking this on! I think it will be interesting to see what’s really going on between the two parties in this labor dispute. I find it very hard to trust anything that Michael Henson or the Board members say. I was recently at an MOA event and was shocked by what I was hearing from people. Each one said exactly the same thing. Exactly! As if they’d been given a script and told not to stray from it. The position was so rigid, too, that it left no room to even have a conversation about the situation. Very sad. I look forward to your analysis….

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