More Details On The Colorado Spring Philharmonic Orchestra’s Path Forward

On Monday, 12/7/2020, we learned the Federally mediated bargaining between the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra (CSPO) and its musicians had broken down. At the time, the musicians issued a press statement that indicating they expect to pursue independent arbitration to address the illegal cancellation of their CBA.

I reached out to the CSPO bass trombonist and Chair of the Players Committee, Jeremy Van Hoy, to learn more.

“We have two grievances that will be settled by an independent arbitrator.  These grievances are about 1) the reduction of our salary through Force Majeure (from July) and 2) the cancellation of our 5-year contract agreement (from September).  This is a multi-month process where an arbitrator is mutually agreed to by both parties, a hearing happens where arguments are laid out, and a binding decision will be given sometime around Feb/March.  This is not with the NLRB, but with the AAA (American Arbitration Association).

We believe we have the right argument here because the day after our contract was cancelled, our Management offered us rehearsals and concerts for this fall.  Why cancel the contract if you want to continue employing us?  The Force Majeure language in our contract that they cited requires that rehearsals and concerts cannot occur, so they are clearly in the wrong.

We still hope that our Management will invite us back to the bargaining table to work out a side letter for this season and that Arbitration will not be necessary.  We have filed the referral at this time because of calendar deadlines (30 days after mediation has ended) and with no sign from our Management that they are willing to reinstate the CBA after the pandemic ends (as we have proposed).  Please refer to our previous press release for more details there.”

According to the musicians, both parties are legally obliged to engage in binding arbitration.

When asked if the CSPO intends to participate in binding arbitration, Nathan Newbrough, the orchestra’s president and CEO, was comparatively cagey.

“We are reviewing the matter and have not made any final determinations,” said Newbrough.

As of now, it is unclear what next steps include if the employer refuses to participate in the binding arbitration process they agreed to when entering into a collective bargaining agreement with their musician employees.

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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