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10 key points the public should know about the Minnesota Orchestra situation

Save Our Symphony Minnesota has significant concerns about the MOA’s handling of the impasse. We believe that a trust deficit is just as troubling as a fiscal deficit.

MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig
A lockout is not a strike. Management locked out the musicians on Oct. 1, 2012.

Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN), an audience advocate group devoted to pursuing concrete action to end the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, is pleased to see movement in recent days in negotiations between the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) and the locked-out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. We are grateful to the foundations and companies that have stepped forward with new “bridge funds.”

But we find it unacceptable that our world-class musicians have been locked out for a year without pay or health insurance, and that they are being forced to negotiate from that position.

We believe it is disgraceful that the MOA is negotiating in the media, rather than confidentially through their own chosen mediator. The MOA seems to be angling to position the musicians as solely responsible, should Music Director Osmo Vänskä leave and the Carnegie Hall performances be canceled.

SOSMN has significant concerns about the MOA’s handling of the impasse. We believe that a trust deficit is just as troubling as a fiscal deficit.

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We would like to remind the public and media of 10 key points:

1. Management presented musicians with a “final offer” in September 2012 calling for 30 to 50 percent cuts and more than 200 changes in work rules, despite having the sixth-largest orchestral endowment in America. No other major orchestra has proposed a contract remotely like this.

2. A lockout is not a strike. Management locked out the musicians on Oct. 1, 2012. They have continued it for a year despite massive public outcry. Management could end the lockout at any time by its own initiative (however, they have publicly stated they will not do so because they will lose “leverage”).

3. Management rejected the musicians’ proposal for binding arbitration. This process would involve substantial risk to the musicians, but management would not subject its finances and contract proposal to an independent arbitrator’s scrutiny.

4. One of many examples of the MOA going back on its word is the saga of the joint financial review. The musicians proposed it at the beginning of the lockout, but management declined. After state legislators got involved, the MOA agreed to an analysis. But the MOA could not agree on the reviewer or terms. Finally, the MOA pulled out of joint analysis altogether and paid for its own so-called “independent review.” This review was finished in June but not released to the musicians or public until September. It contained no comparisons with other orchestras in cities with more successful orchestras. But it did suggest a significant level of financial mismanagement over the years. Responsibility for this lies with the MOA board and management.

5. In 2009, according to their 990s, the MOA sold millions of dollars of securities at a $14 million loss. No other American orchestra reported a loss like this. Despite repeated calls from the public, the MOA has not explained what these securities were or what their value would be now.

6. In July, CEO Michael Henson said that a $960,000 state grant represented 7 percent of the MOA’s 012-13 budget, which means the budget came in somewhere around $13.7 million.  So the MOA spent nearly $14 million and yet presented no orchestral concerts in 2012-2013.

7. Management recommended former Sen. George Mitchell as a mediator. The musicians accepted his “play-and-talk” proposal, which included equal risks for both sides, but the management rejected it.

8. In August, management presented an offer to the musicians that it specifically stated was outside the mediation process. It was presented to the media at the same time it was presented to the musicians. But the “new” proposal was almost identical to a proposal the musicians had already unanimously rejected. To this day, the management continues to negotiate through the media. In fact, on Sept. 26, the MOA presented another contract proposal to the musicians through the Star Tribune -— before the musicians had even seen it. How can the community trust a group of people who believes this method of “negotiating” is acceptable?

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9. Management repeatedly states that orchestra musicians are easily replaceable. This assertion is false. Look at the experiences of the Detroit Symphony and Louisville Symphony after their devastating work stoppages.

10. Richard Davis, chair of management’s negotiating committee, recently said to the Star Tribune, “Osmo may have to leave.”  These words are personally and professionally insulting to the man who has led the orchestra to greatness. We find this disrespectful attitude to be appalling and thoroughly unworthy of this great institution.

What does Save Our Symphony Minnesota want?

  • We ask management to end the lockout immediately and without preconditions.
  • We want the board and management of the MOA to be fully accountable to the community. We ask for full transparency with musicians and public.
  • We ask MOA to engage in a constructive public dialogue with the audience and the greater community.
  • We ask the MOA to negotiate confidentially through Sen. Mitchell.

If these steps are taken, we have great confidence that the music can be brought back, Maestro Vänskä can remain music director, the Carnegie Hall performances can go on as planned, and the 2013-14 orchestral season can get under way with significant renewed support from the community, Minnesota Orchestra patrons, and donors.

Please join us in our efforts.

Maryann Goldstein is SOSMN chair, Jon Eisenberg is SOSMN vice chair, Mariellen Jacobson is SOSMN treasurer and Nils Halker is SOSMN secretary.


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