Minnesota Proposes A Trap Door Agreement

The Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) issued a statement on 8/29/13 to announce they had submitted a revised contract proposal to the musicians, who have been locked out for all of the 2012/13 season. The offer comes outside the auspices of the mutually agreed upon mediator, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and is more of a backdoor attempt to impose an agreement rather than a good faith effort to reach a mutually agreeable contract.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-067Mitchell’s previous attempts to get both sides talking while simultaneously getting the 2013/14 season underway involved a two-tier timeline structure of play and talk conditions where if both sides failed to reach an agreement, they would return to their previous positions and in all likelihood, the work stoppage. For example, the first two months of play and talk contained specific compensation levels and if no agreement was reached, a new two month period with reduced compensation levels would commence. If no agreement was in place by the end of that period, then the work stoppage would go back into effect.

The MOA’s latest offer retains the initial two month play and talk term but imposes a non-negotiable two year agreement if both sides fail to reach terms otherwise. Consequently, the offer removes all measure of risk for the MOA and they only need to run down the clock in order to achieve an agreement crafted without mutual stakeholder input.

Given the MOA’s bargaining history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they entered the two month play and talk period with no genuine intent for reaching a goal. Moreover, without the shared risk of institutional collapse, which was a cornerstone of Mitchell’s proposals, there’s no incentive for them to negotiate terms outside of the 24 month trap door agreement.

Given the provincial changes in the proposal alongside the eleventh hour timing, it seems more likely that this latest effort is an attempt to leverage musician fears and mounting financial pressures into accepting an offer crafted in an environment devoid of actual bargaining.

Prior to this article being published, the Minnesota Orchestra musicians already rejected the MOA’s revised offer. Details at TCBMag.com.

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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8 thoughts on “Minnesota Proposes A Trap Door Agreement”

  1. Drew, is this a non-negotiable offer? If not, why wouldn’t the musicians come back with a counter-proposal adjusting all the numbers: e.g. a four month period to negotiate, a 5% reduction if negotiations fail, to last four years rather than two, and additional work rule changes taken off the table. In other words, negotiate. And perhaps offer to work unpaid overtime on audition committees in order to get the vacancies filled as quickly as possible.

    • This situation is far past the point of semantics. If the MOA had any serious desire for a counter proposal, they would have accepted the play and talk terms proposed by Mitchell where the musicians agreed to provide a counter proposal but within the environment of shared risk. Add to that the MOA’s end run around the mediator they agreed to use and you have a non-negotiable offer.

  2. They didn’t actually reject this recent offer. Check the musicians website. They are reviewing this recent offer before they put it to a vote. This offer was similar to the one offered by management in early August before the mediation process started. That offer the musicians did reject.

  3. The headline and the first paragraph send the wrong message. There is more clarification in the body of the article itself. The issue is that the board also made this recent offer public which they were not supposed to do. The musicians want the lock out lifted with out conditions attached.

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