The Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra (CSPO) labor dispute continues with little change from where they were months ago. What this means is while other orchestras are tooling back up for performance activity and moving ahead, the CSPO continues to shrink in their rearview mirror.
While both sides in the dispute remain in arbitration, there is no progress to report.
What has changed is an increase in local attention where KKTV recently interviewed representatives from both sides in the dispute. You can stream both interviews at the new station’s website and while both reps stayed on talking points we’ve covered here over the past year, a few items in the interview with CSPO President and CEO Nathan Newbrough are worth noting.
At the heart of the dispute is the employer’s decision to cancel the union agreement entirely rather than impose a new agreement or continue bargaining. The only other orchestra to do this was the Louisville Orchestra in 2011 and it did not end well for that organization.
Consequently, it came as a surprise when Newbrough said the following:
“This is a time when we’re renegotiating the contract with our musicians.”
The key word there is renegotiating and while there’s plenty of reason to think it was a slip of the tongue in a live setting, it isn’t really an accurate statement. I’m happy to own the fact that this is the sort of minutia that labor geeks pick up on but has less impact with others.
Having said that, there is no splitting hairs over Newbrough’s answer to a question about being placed on the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) International Unfair List.
“The unfair list doesn’t really have impact on us.”
It’s easy to see where playing this down might seem like a good approach but make no mistake, being on the Unfair List is exactly what orchestras try to avoid. You can learn more about why this is a big deal and how it impacts disputes in an article from 3/15/21 that examined this very issue.
Beyond that, I did notice Newbrough’s decision to use the ” I talked to one musician…” anonymous authority angle toward the end of the interview.
I get it. It’s an easy device to use but it is bothersome when someone in a figure of authority uses a subordinate without their knowledge nor permission in a conversation where, if it actually happened, anything they may have said in the opposite would put them at risk of retaliation.
Part of an executive’s responsibility is to resist urges to abuse their authority at the cost of any employee’s dignity and security. Simply put, there’s no place for this in a labor dispute.