Mediation Fails To Resolve Colorado Springs Philharmonic’s Labor Dispute

After multiple weeks of Federally mediated bargaining, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic musicians released a press statement on 12/6/2020 to announce those efforts have failed to resolve the ongoing labor dispute.

The dispute was triggered in October 2020 when the employer decided to terminate an existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and replace it with non-union work contracts. According to the musicians, they used mediation to offer sizable concessions to help the organization weather the pandemic.

“We musicians wholeheartedly want to work with the management toward creative solutions to the challenges that the pandemic presents.  We have volunteered on phone lines, waived broadcast fees, and offered many reasonable proposals.   We requested and attended a number of mediation sessions in which we showed our willingness to work toward a solution in good faith. Ultimately, we offered management an extraordinarily high degree of flexibility in regard to performances throughout the term of the pandemic, and for a period of six months afterward.”

Moving forward the musicians expect to pursue independent arbitration to address the illegal cancellation of their CBA.

At the heart of the dispute is whether the organization should be making long term strategic changes or focusing on short term adjustments to the existing CBA capable of absorbing pandemic revenue shortfalls. The musicians favor the latter while the employer is pushing for permanent, sizable concessions. When they were unable to secure those changes via bargaining, they decided to unilaterally terminate the agreement.

At of the time this article was written, the employer has not released a public statement.

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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