What Is San Antonio Symphony’s “Fair And Reasonable” Future?

If you find news coming out of the San Antonio Symphony (SAS) confusing, you’re not alone. The 501(c)3 which operates the SAS, Symphony Society of San Antonio (SSSA), has decided to cease operations and is turning over its mission driven activity to a brand-new nonprofit, Symphonic Music for San Antonio (SMSA).

SSSA isn’t filing bankruptcy nor are the organizations merging. This is even different than the pseudo-hostile takeover scenarios we’ve seen unfold in Columbus and Hartford over the past decade.

Instead, this is more akin to a Successor and Assignment scenario.

Adaptistration People 079Contractually, a boilerplate successor and assignment clause is fairly straightforward: “This Agreement shall be binding upon and shall inure to the benefit of the parties and their permitted successors and assigns.”

In a successorship situation, one of the largest financial obligations the SMSA will assume is the musician’s labor agreement. Even though the current agreement expires Aug 31, 2017 that doesn’t mean the SMSA is free to simply walk away if negotiations don’t unfold as desired.

As an interesting aside, the current SAS master agreement does not contain any sort of successor and assignment clause. At the same time, that’s not likely to be a sticking point thanks to a string of National Labor Relations Board decisions that typically rule in favor of the employees. But it’s a fun geek point if you’re into that sort of thing.

Granted, this is a deep rabbit hole but it is difficult to refute that the organization is looking very much like it is in successorship status thanks to the SMSA stating their intent to carry on with mission driven activity with little change to how that’s carried out.

Additional details about expected event based activity were provided by the SMSA and reported in an article by David Hendricks for the 7/19/2017 edition of the San Antonio Express-News.

For now, the SMSA and SAS musicians are playing it cool by offering up let’s see where things go style statements.

SAS violinist and musicians’ negotiation committee chair, Craig Sorgi, told the Express-News “[the musicians] are looking forward to working with the new organization. We are still in (contract) negotiations, and the talks so far have been amicable. We’re looking forward to the start of the new season.”

For the SMSA’s perspective, one of what they define as a set of four guiding principles is reaching a “fair and reasonable” collective bargaining agreement with musicians. “Fair and reasonable” covers a lot of ground and given that the successor organization is comprised of stakeholders and funders who were dissatisfied with the SSSA’s expense structure, it is difficult to imagine that whatever transpires wouldn’t be closely related to maximum expenditure levels based on their historic giving levels.

For now, the SMSA is holding those cards close to their chest.

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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