Last week’s article examining a recent outpouring of support for the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Minneapolis-St. Paul Local 30-73 in the form of a $71,000 donation from a diverse collection of other AFM Locals and individuals, produced some intriguing comments. One from Milwaukee Symphony Principal Violist and President of AFM Local 8, Robert Levine, contains what might be considered by some as a line in the sand concerning how much importance the AFM places on the current Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) work stoppage.
[The MOA] lock-out became the emotional center of this AFM Convention, and is now universally recognized within the entire AFM as an existential struggle that must not be lost due to any failure of will or resources on the union’s part. No orchestral labor dispute has ever had that importance to the AFM before.
Any employers paying attention will read significance into that. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Minnesota Orchestra may not.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, determining conditions for victory or failure in a labor dispute are arguable, yet elemental, aspects of determining whether or not any sort of rediscovered sense of camaraderie throughout the AFM will not only impact the MOA work stoppage but have any substantive impact on other orchestral employers.
For example, presume that the AFM leadership indeed adopts what Levine suggests and goes all-in with their resources and doubles down on resolve to achieve their goals in what Levine defined as an existential struggle. Likewise, presume the MOA leadership adopts a similar position by going so far as to embrace the notion of allowing the entire 2013/14 season to go dark and allow the institution to enter either reorganization bankruptcy that produces the sort of agreement they are currently seeking.
In the end, the outcomes are defined by having a clear loser in order to have a winner. And to play Devil’s Advocate, how is the AFM’s renewed commitment supposed to dissuade other orchestra boards and CEOs from adopting a similarly destructive governance attitude to what we’ve been witnessing at the MOA?
Two thoughts come to mind:
- The AFM and its Locals certainly can’t endure an incessant financial assault.
- With regard to influencing orchestral employers, I’m reminded of a phrase coined by comedian Ron White: “You can’t fix stupid.”
Through the lens of that perspective, the entire state of affairs begins to resemble a basket case remedied more by attrition than anything else.
To be very clear, this article isn’t an attempt to disapprove of nor endorse any course of action or ideology; instead, it is designed to get you thinking through some very complex questions. Ultimately, that journey will be just as valuable, if not more, than wherever you arrive.