Last week, the Kennedy Center’s executive leadership decided to set aside established stakeholder relationships and strike out on its own by unilaterally declaring that most employees would be laid off or furloughed within a week’s time. Health care would be terminated one month following the official layoff date if the shutdowns continued. Fast forward to today and it’s a very different story.
When announcing the cuts at the very end of March, Kennedy Center president, Deborah Rutter, emphasized all union employees (musicians, stagehands, etc.) were included and these cuts would be implemented in one week’s time.
Rutter doubled down on that position during a March 30 teleconference call attended by approximately 200 administrative staff. On more than one occasion during the call, she made clear that union employees would be equally shouldering these cuts.
That came as a shock to the unionized musician employees, who reached out well before the announcement to say they were ready and willing to offer concessions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the musicians filed a grievance and long story short, the Kennedy Center ended up in what is likely the same place they would have if they simply sat down with their unions in the first place. According to an article by Peggy McGlone in the 4/8/2020 edition of the Washington Post, the deal provides immediate concessions and goes so far as to modify the existing master agreement one year in order to accommodate additional financial reductions.
What’s unknown at this point in time is how the new concessions will impact the non-union employee layoffs and furloughs.
It isn’t difficult to think that the Kennedy Center could have arrived at a far more equitable place for allocating concessions if it had opted to include stakeholders at every step of the process as opposed to the heavy-handed approach it ultimately used.