Speaking Of Patron Driven Ethics

Following up on yesterday’s article on the impact of ethics on the current round of labor disputes, it is worthwhile to point out some recent efforts on behalf of patron stakeholders to influence the strategic decision making process within the context of a labor dispute. In St. Paul, the Save Our SPCO (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) patron group is garnering local press attention for their efforts to influence the work stoppage.

150x150_ITA_Guy034MPR News published an article on 1/8/2013 by Euan Kerr which reports Save Our SPCO delivered a petition with slightly less than 3,000 signatures calling for “good faith negotiations, selection and support of good leaders and finding a workable solution to the SPCO’s financial troubles.”

What’s interesting in this instance is the patron group was reportedly accompanied by St. Paul City Councilmember Dave Thune who issued a very direct perspective on how he preferred the work stoppage end if a mutually agreeable solution can’t be found.

“I keep hoping that they will be reasonable in their negotiations and I certainly hope that if they can’t do that then they’ll just replace management,” Thune said.

Thune apparently isn’t the only local Minnesota politician interested in influencing what appears to be a rash of labor disputes and work stoppages. MinnPost.com published an article on 1/7/2013 by Joe Kimball which reports Minnesota State Representative Joe Atkins is pushing for a hearing in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Atkins’ goal is to reportedly determine whether the state should consider new rules on work stoppages for organizations that accept public funding.

“Whether it’s the NHL, NFL, the Minnesota Orchestra, or the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, lockouts have been happening more and more frequently with groups who received taxpayer dollars, despite promises by those groups of economic activity and jobs. We have an obligation to taxpayers to find ways to minimize the economic impact of these lockouts in the future.”

What do you think, should politicians routinely take a proactive role in orchestra labor disputes? Should nonprofit performing arts organization stakeholders be held accountable in some form or another for the impact on the local economy during work stoppages (both strikes and lockouts)?

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 “Speaking Of Patron Driven Ethics”

  1. I don’t know about “routinely”, but this is such a unique situation, with incredibly unique dynamics, that hopefully will never be repeated anywhere again, that I think it is warranted here in Minnesota. When managements won’t hold open meetings with the public – continually put forth misleading or incomplete statements – refuse to submit to public demands for transparency – and are proposing cuts of such massive unparalleled proportions, that nearly every expert in the performing arts world warns will be dangerous if not lethal to the artistic health of the organization – then I don’t know what else patrons can do besides strive to involve politicians. It’s not an ideal solution by ANY means, but…I don’t know what else to do. We’re getting desperate. Patron stakeholders feel like we’re screaming and no one’s listening. Like you said yesterday, at least if they were leading a private company, we’d have the option of taking our business elsewhere – or if they were politicians, voting them out. But we don’t have that, so we’re forced to look for allies who might have some power to help make our voices heard – i.e., politicians.

  2. Let’s also not forget that WE the taxpayers and citizens are paying for these lockouts via unemployment insurance to the musicians. That seems to be modus operandi in Corporate America these days – have the government and the “little people” pay for things. The Walmart Approach, if you will, where we all pay for food stamps and emergency room visits because Walmart employees aren’t paid decently. And who gets the profits?

    As for the Twin Cities situation, there are two building projects which involve state and city money – not to mention millions from donors who THOUGHT that they were giving for renovated homes for two national orchestras and not facilities for impresario groups.

    And speaking of politician engagement, now there is this: http://songofthelark.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/minnesota-orchestra-sibelius-grammy-concert/

    Oh SNAP!!! I am so there!

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