Ultimatum To Fort Wayne Phil Musicians Earns Employer A NLRB Trial Date

The ongoing labor dispute between the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and its musicians crossed another milestone last week when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against the employer.

According to the musicians who filed complaint 25-CA-268849 on 11/10/2020, the employer allegedly refused to bargain in good faith and engaged in surface bargaining (merely going through the motions) and/or direct dealing (circumventing elected negotiating representatives and attempting to bargain directly with individuals).

According to a Wayne.com news article by Corinne More, the trial has been set for June 2, 2021 before a NLRB administrative law judge.

Fort Wayne has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most bitter pandemic era labor disputes. It’s so bad, it earned them a rare spot on the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) International Unfair List.

According to a 2/25/2021 musician press statement, the employer has been pushing to reduce the number of contracted musicians from 63 to 15.

Throughout the dispute, the musicians have filed multiple unfair labor charges with the NLRB but not all have been successful. Complaint 25-CA-267158, filled on 10/05/2020, was dismissed on 1/22/2021, however the charge has yet to be closed and is under review following an appeal submitted by the musicians.

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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