Over the weekend, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (SFS) and its musicians finally wrapped up the contentious labor dispute that led to a strike and tour cancellation. Details of the agreement have been trickling out in edited press release format but any meaningful analysis won’t be possible until the complete agreement is made public.
Nonetheless, what’s interesting is the continuing degree of animosity between employer and employee stakeholders in the wake of the ratification announcement. Equally interesting is the revelation that Professor Robert Mnookin was brought in to facilitate the post work stoppage bargaining sessions.
Mnookin is a key figure here in that he was the central figure involved in the SFS’s last major strike in 1996. That Interest Based Bargaining process led to an extended period of labor peace and institutional growth.
In a press statement from 4/13/2013, the SF musicians credit Mnookin for helping resolve the dispute. The statement also levies additional charges of administrative incompetence and in no uncertain terms, lays the blame for their decision to strike on managerial ineptitude.
The Musicians agreed to look at ways to help achieve savings in Health Care and for more than three months invested large amounts of time and money into studying a proposed Health Plan that in the end was too good to be true. The Management overestimated the savings by $700,000 and didn’t realize their mistake until March 12, forcing the Musicians to strike on March 13.
It is unclear exactly who the musicians are referencing with the capitalized proper Noun “Management” but this follows a pattern of ambiguity when expressing outrage over strategic decision making. In short, it has been continuously unclear whether the musicians have been asserting that the entire SFS administrative branch is incompetent (from entry level employees up through the CEO), the board, certain members in one or both groups, etc.
The only clarity on these matters came in the form of a quote from David Gaudry, Chair of the Musicians’ Negotiating Committee.
“Some of the members of the Management bargaining team were inexperienced and they wasted hundreds of hours of our time.”
At the time this article was published, the SFS has not responded to the musicians’ accusations but it appears that although a settlement was reached, a great deal of animosity, and perhaps unsettled business, remains. And given that the recently ratified agreement expires in approximately 20 months, those very same stakeholders may be meeting again in short order to pick up bargaining where they recently left off.