Does Your Orchestra Have An Expired Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Although we’ve already been following two brewing labor disputes at smaller and mid-size budget orchestras, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any negotiating going on among their larger budget peers. Indeed, the majority of larger budget orchestra master agreement expiration dates correspond with the very end or very beginning of their respective season so a quick look at the calendar should tell you that we are rapidly approaching crunch time for those groups.

Adaptistration People 019Ideally, an orchestra and its musicians will attempt to reach an agreement in advance of their expiration date but ever since the onset of the economic downturn, it isn’t unusual to see groups go one to several weeks past that date.

In and of itself, that is not reason for undue alarm since more often than not, that interim period is governed by some sort of play and talk scenario so rehearsals and concerts can unfold as planned; but as we examined on 9/10/2015, one of a few other less palpable options can unfold such as the employer enforcing a new contract or either side initiating a work stoppage.

All things being equal, there are fourteen large budget orchestra and opera organizations with collective bargaining agreements set to expiring from June through September, groups marked with an asterisk have expired agreements while those marked with a plus have already reached a new agreement.

  1. Chicago Lyric Opera 6/30/2015*
  2. Chicago Symphony 9/13/2015*
  3. Cincinnati Symphony 9/13/2015⁺
  4. Cleveland Orchestra 8/30/2015*
  5. Columbus Symphony 8/31/2015⁺
  6. Dallas Symphony 8/31/2015*
  7. Florida Orchestra 8/31/2015*
  8. Fort Worth Symphony 7/31/2015*
  9. Grand Rapids Symphony 8/31/2015*
  10. Milwaukee Symphony 8/31/2015*
  11. New Jersey Symphony 8/31/2015*
  12. Philadelphia Orchestra 9/13/2015*
  13. San Antonio Symphony 8/31/2015⁺
  14. Utah Symphony 8/31/2015⁺

As for groups with expired agreements that have not secured a play and talk arrangement, the first scheduled rehearsal will serve as the initial threshold for a potential work stoppage (a lockout or strike). For many, that first scheduled service will occur anywhere from this week through the beginning of October.

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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