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Even with agreement, Minnesota Orchestra and musicians have much damage to undo

MinnPost photo by Craig Lassig
Doug Kelley, MOA board member and negotiator, speaking at Tuesday's press conference at Orchestra Hall.

There are no winners in the the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s 474-day lockout of musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

What remains to be seen is whether losses can be minimized now that the two sides have ratified a three-year contract.

What will the mood of the public be? Will superb musicians who left, or took leaves of absence, return or be replaced by equally talented players?  Can that chemistry that helped propel the orchestra into one of the best in the country somehow be rediscovered?

And will Osmo Vänskä, the conductor/chemist who seemed to bring it all together, be brought back? 

The lockout may officially be over, and terms of the contract may be agreed on. But it will be at least months, perhaps years, before we’ll know if the damage done can be repaired.

Orchestra’s return not simple

Just bringing the orchestra back together under the Orchestra Hall roof will not be simple.

It took four and a half hours for the musicians to vote on the contract, which was tentatively agreed to in written form by management and musicians last Friday, following an oral agreement reached last Tuesday.  

Part of the reason for the long vote process is that musicians have scattered across the globe since being locked out.  On Tuesday votes were coming from the Canary Islands, Japan and all parts of the U.S.

Even now, with the contract ratified, musicians will have commitments to fulfill elsewhere before returning full time to Minnesota.

For example, Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, French horn player in the orchestra, spoke of how she has engagements ahead with the Kennedy Center Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Orchestra. Many other members of the orchestra are in a similar situation, she said.

“We had to plan out as far as we could because we had no idea if this was going to end,” she said.

Even when all — or at least most — performers are back in Minnesota, it’s hard to know what sort of frame of mind they’ll be in. Being locked out of the workplace for more than a year doesn’t help most people’s attitudes.

Tensions, too, don’t end the moment the ink dries on a contract.

Of course, leaders of the musicians’ negotiating team were trying to be as positive as possible at Tuesday’s late-afternoon media event announcing the contract ratification.

“We took care of business,’’ said Tim Zavadil, clarinetist and a negotiating leader. “We need to work as hard as we can with leadership to make sure the orchestra thrives.”

But there was a “minder” at the musicians event Tuesday. It appeared to be her job to remind musicians who were watching the media event that they had agreed to let negotiating team leaders do all of the talking on their behalf.

Presumably, there was concern that, if left to their own devices, some musicians might have some off-key comments to make about the long, long process.

Emotions still running high

There were other indicators that emotions are running high among musicians.

The MOA, whose board members had ratified the contract earlier in the day, opened the doors to the Orchestra Hall lobby around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Musicians were invited to cross the street, from their meeting room at the Hilton, to join the MOA in issuing a joint media conference.

That offer was rejected by musicians. They explained that they chose not to go to Orchestra Hall because they were under tight timelines. (At least a couple of members of the musicians’ negotiating team had flights to catch to other cities for performances.)

More likely, though, it was too soon for an all-is-forgiven moment with the MOA.

‘Good old days’ may be elusive

The final indicator that transition to the “good old days” will not be easy was the simple reality that the vote to ratify the contract was not unanimous, though musician negotiators would not say what the final vote was.

In the past, all rejections of MOA offers had been unanimous.

But it’s not just the musicians who have some wounds to bind.

Both musicians and MOA board members aren’t quite sure what to make of the huge crowds musicians had drawn during the lockout to their self-produced concerts at a variety of venues.

Were the often-emotional crowds showing up as a sign of support for the musicians?  Or was it because those people simply had to have their classical music fix?

“It’s something we talk about,” cellist and negotiator Marcia Peck said. “We don’t know how those people [the huge crowds] will feel now.’’

But it is the case that for many, these elite musicians became the beloved, blue-collar underdogs.

Board member Doug Kelley, who was the face of the MOA Tuesday, made it a point to speak of “the energy” that came to surround the performances of the musicians.

“We need that energy here,” Kelley said, adding that he hoped that those who were filling other venues would buy tickets for Orchestra Hall performances and donate to the MOA.

What will musicians’ supporters do?

Several organizations of music lovers did spring up during the lockout — and most of their supporters seemed to end up empathizing with musicians.

Where do they go now?

“My guess is that unless the MOA leadership changes radically, they will have a very difficult time getting the audience and fundraising back,” said Nils Halker, secretary of Save Our Symphony Minnesota, in an e-mail.

Such radical change does not seem forthcoming.

Yes, board Chairman Jon Campbell will step down, but that’s only fulfilling a promise he made in December when he said he’d stay until the dispute was resolved.

It should be noted that Campbell did not appear to be a significant player in the negotiations that finally resolved the dispute.

And Kelley insisted that Michael Henson, the MOA’s controversial CEO, is staying put — at least for the time being. It was Henson who put the lockout strategy in place.

Increased pressure?

His strategy seemed to have the support of the board, but it didn’t play so well elsewhere.

In fact, one source sympathetic to the musicians claimed Tuesday that it was a MOA report filed with the city of Minneapolis that backfired so badly that management was forced to give the musicians a deal far beyond what it had wanted to give.

Under terms of a complex lease arrangement with the city, the MOA was required to file a report with the city in early December. That report, according to the source and according to members of Save Our Symphony, was so filled with misrepresentations that Minneapolis could have terminated its lease with the MOA without any negative repercussions for the city.

The source said that 10 legislators were prepared to ask Attorney General Lori Swanson to push the termination of the MOA-city lease. And city officials warned the MOA to resolve the issue by Thursday or face the consequences of the inaccurate report.

Kelley denied that the MOA was being pressured by the city.

For her part, Mayor Betsy Hodges, who sided with the musicians in the dispute, was quick to issue a statement Tuesday praising the agreement and pleading with all parties — musicians, the board and people in the metro — to “come together and work on rebuilding trust in our community.”

Obviously, rehiring Vänskä would be a positive step in that direction. Although Kelley said any decision to bring back Vänskä, who resigned in October, hasn’t been dealt with yet, it’s clearly a discussion point.

Musicians, by the way, said that Vänskä’s employment was not a part of the settlement. But Zavadil did say Vänskä “only makes us stronger if he returns.”

So how do you figure winners and losers in all of this?

Contract basics

Basics of a contract settlement are seldom clear, and both sides in a final deal try to spin the bottom line.

Start with this: The MOA locked out the musicians when they did not accept a 30 percent cut, which it said was needed to make up the orchestra’s $6 million annual operating deficit.

Musicians are coming back to work facing a 15 percent cut in the first year, which would drop average wages from $135,000 to $118,000. Musicians get a 2 percent increase in the second year of the deal and a 3 percent increase in the third year. The new figures keep musicians among the top 10 highest-paid orchestras in the country.

Additionally, MOA says it will save 7.5 per cent annually on health insurance costs. Another way of looking at this is that musicians could be paying as much as $2,300 more per year for health coverage.

The big savings for the MOA would appear to come in required orchestra size. Although the contract maintains that the orchestra’s full complement should be 95 members, the actual numbers are much smaller: 77 in the first year, 79 in the second and 84 by the end of the third year.

Additionally, when fill-in musicians are brought in for big presentations, they will be paid at a lower base rate than full-time orchestra members — a precedent-setting reduction, according to Kelley.

Still, overall, the MOA’s desire to make up $6 million in operating deficits in cuts to musicians wasn’t achieved. Kelley says savings to the MOA will be about half that amount.

Additionally, if the economy — and thus the endowment — flourishes in the next three years, the musicians will get a taste of the action. According to the MOA, when annual endowment investment returns are greater than 10 percent, musicians can share in those returns in excess of 10 percent, capped at 5 percent of their base pay.

There are other work rule changes that the MOA claims as “wins.”

The MOA board does pledge to do a better job of engaging musicians in governing the orchestra and programming. Yet, there appears to be no gain in real power for musicians.

But much remains unclear.

It’s not even certain when the orchestra will make its return to Orchestra Hall, although it’s assumed there will be a concert by mid-February.  Only then, will we begin to understand if what was lost can be found again.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Sarah Schmalenberger on 01/15/2014 - 11:26 am.

    Endowment Ruse?

    So, given the suspicious bookeeping practices of the MOA during the lockout, and given the apparent status quo of the administration after the lockout, why would anyone trust that there will be an accurate reporting of endowment profit? I imagine the feigned regret each year by the money henchmen, that the amount just misses the 10 percent mark – “sorry musicians, no profit sharing this year, better get some more people to donate next year.” This also seems rather manipulative to those of us who are inclined to withold donations in protest of the status quo. If we don’t pony up and accept the continued regime of Henson et al, then we will be castigated as failing to help the orchestra pass the 10 percent mark – and therefore failing to support the musicians. Is this how management creates their own job security?

  2. Submitted by Gina Hunter on 01/15/2014 - 11:27 am.

    Still Work to be Done

    I’m sure that even more details of the settlement and the reactions of both sides will come out in the coming days. One thing I’ve been seeing online this morning about the settlement is a disappointment that Michael Henson remains President and CEO. My sense is that the community will not return and not give their hard-earned money to the MOA until Mr. Henson tenders his resignation. There is a powerful distrust of MOA management and their ability to manage the organization’s money. It was them, after all, that got the organization into the financial mess that they blamed on the economy and the musicians. So the Board and executive management has a monumental task of earning back the community’s trust, and that may not happen until they make dramatic changes in the leadership of the MOA.

  3. Submitted by John Edwards on 01/15/2014 - 01:54 pm.

    The true cause of the settlement?

    Star-Tribune news report today: . . . (The musicians) were eligible for unemployment, although that eligibility was set to expire in February. Also, musician eligibility for COBRA health benefits was set to expire in March.”

    Despite various claims of noble purposes, the fact that the strikers’ unemployment was about to run out hardly seems a coincidence in the settlement. Perhaps the orchestra’s patrons should thank Congressional Republicans’ for their efforts to stop the expensive and endless benefits. According to the liberal AARP’s Jan-Feb Bulletin, Minnesota’s maximum unemployment weekly benefit is $610 (and that is for a person with no dependents) which is nearly double the $310 in Illinois and second in the nation to New Jersey’s $624.

    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 01/15/2014 - 02:19 pm.

      Other causes

      First of all, it wasn’t a strike, it was a management-initiated lockout. Second, I think the threat of terminating MOA’s lease on the hall is a more plausible explanation. And there was mention of new board leadership stepping in during the final stages of negotiations, so thankfully that moved things along.

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 01/15/2014 - 10:52 pm.

      Your agenda is clear…

      as soon as you use the word ‘strike’.

      Nobody has time for these stupid lies anymore.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 01/16/2014 - 08:22 pm.

      Good Grief…

      very few people qualify for $610 and that’s before taxes…add Cobra to the mix and your myth that everyone is kicking back, living it up on unemployment benefits looks pretty ridiculous. Mortgage, car payments, kids in school, school loans, credit card payments, gas. food, utilities…all on five bills a week? Seriously….

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/17/2014 - 11:53 am.

      How often will you post this?

      I see you have posted this same basic screed at least twice.

      Perhaps you could explain how it is that the threat of unemployment and COBRA benefits run out for the musicians gave the Board an incentive to make a more attractive offer. Was the Board going to get their benefits cut off, too? You’l have to explain that one.

      How generous are those benefits? The figure you quote from the “liberal AARP (glad you managed to fit the L word in. I was beginning to worry about you),” the theoretical maximum benefit in Minnesota is $610 per week, or $31,720 per year. That’s less than a third of what the musicians were making when they were allowed to work. In addition, if my recollection is correct, those benefits are reduced by any other income received. Orchestra musicians often supplement their salaries with fees for giving lessons or performing outside the orchestra. These fees would be deducted from the lavish benefits granted by liberals, so I doubt there were many musicians were getting the full liberal $610 per week.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/15/2014 - 02:35 pm.

    “So, given the suspicious bookkeeping practices of the MOA during the lockout, and given the apparent status quo of the administration after the lockout, why would anyone trust that there will be an accurate reporting of endowment profit?”

    Maybe the bookkeeping practices practices weren’t quite as suspicious as they were made out to be during the heat of the dispute.

    • Submitted by Cynthia Ahlgren on 01/15/2014 - 03:09 pm.

      “Maybe” isn’t good enough. Donors and patrons need to be able to verify. Indeed, all citizens need to be able to verify. It is our public money and good public name that may be jeopardized by authoritarian, incompetent, and maybe even self-serving board leadership. It behooves all of us to have access to the books when the MOA bears our name and receives the benefit of public money. If the MOA leadership doesn’t want transparency and due consideration of the public and patrons in their management of our orchestra and our orchestra hall, they should get their own private orchestra.

      Their books may be spotless and above-board, but we will not know that until they are opened for verification. And we will not trust them unless changes have been made.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/15/2014 - 04:21 pm.

        Happy, happy faces

        “Maybe” isn’t good enough.

        If the musicians didn’t have confidence that the agreement they have with management wouldn’t be honored, that would be a very good reason not to enter into it. In any event, this agreement between labor and management is their business, not mine.

        Personally, I don;t have any sort of compulsive need to verify a lot of things. When the orchestra calls me up for a contribution, sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no, but yes or no, I have never asked to see the books. I don’t expect that to change. Maybe, if I did have some questions about how they spend their money, I might get referred to someone in the office who might be able to give me some answers, but I have a high degree of confidence that if I made a nuisance of myself in that regard, they would just stop taking my calls and move on.

        This is the time for transparency to end and opacity to return, for everyone on all sides to put on happy faces in public and talk about how excited everyone is to get back to work and for the orchestra to resume it’s world class status. If there is any bloodletting to be done, let it happen offstage as quietly and as untransparently as possible.

  5. Submitted by Cynthia Ahlgren on 01/15/2014 - 02:53 pm.

    This lockout has exposed several serious problems with the existing structure of the MOA. Even if they change leadership they are still organized as a closed circle of back-scratching, like-thinking members with a policy of hiding financial realities from the public. We must insist on financial transparency and a more open and inclusive board. Mayor Hodges spoke of restoring trust. I, for one, would never consider contributing to the MOA without these changes (and more). We have seen what trust in the MOA has wrought! I don’t know how to effect change in their corporate structure, but I have started by writing to my legislator. Anyone with a real understanding of how these things work should get the word out to the orchestra supporters before attention wavers. We must continue toward reform while we are still focused.

    Thanks to the strength and cohesion of the musicians, the amazing emotional and financial support of the patrons, and –yes — humane “unemployment” benefits (see cynical comment below from John Edwards), we have been able to withstand this form of a hostile takeover. I am so grateful to all who stood together to fend it off.

  6. Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 01/15/2014 - 05:16 pm.

    Fantastic—Its probably over

    As full season subscribers since 1971 (and attendees -almost always), substantial ex-contributors and fellow travelers (Japan, Europe x2, the Proms and Edinburgh,) we are GLAD to have OUR orchestra back. Though 95% supporters of the orchestra musicians in this cause, we are grieved that the orchestra members have had to pay part of the cost of the “cooked books” in the settlement. On the other hand, I really don’t think if a concert runs over two hours by 10 or 15 minutes, overtime should be paid. A lot of healing is necessary, and obviously Osmo must come back or it will set us back even further. I suspect he is willing and should not need to take a pay cut–he’s a super star and worth every penny.

  7. Submitted by John Smith on 01/15/2014 - 05:52 pm.

    Give it a rest

    The numbers aren’t cooked, baked or sauced. Multiple auditors verify the numbers it is all very public. Go look it up, I did after seeing all these news reports of the sky falling and us about to turn into south daktoka according to the musicians supports.

    The reality appears that the government checks were ending and te musicians finally decided to negotiate, I can’t blame them for not wanting to try Obamacare.

    But hey we wouldn’t want any of the musician support groups that popped up to actually use facts, no that would destroy the evil bankers and rich people narrative that was peddled for the last year. I guess SOS stood for Same old S$&”.

    Also the city of Minneapolis didn’t have a chance of getting control of the building(one simple pass at the public contract proved that), but hey that along with the cheap politicians in the Minnesota legislature that over stepped there bounds were the last hail Mary of the union.

    Too bad the musicians lost a year of income but as usual union management never cares about the rank and file, truth was there wasn’t as much money as the union wanted and no amount of protests, and tantrums were going to change that. But why let facts destroy a good narrative about the evil 1%.

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 01/15/2014 - 08:18 pm.

      Help us understand, brave “John Smith”…

      …what audited reports you read.
      Was it the report which was dictated by the MOA? “Please examine this file and these numbers, nothing else. Thanks.”
      How about those 990s that showed Henson got two…2…TWO huge bonuses in 2011? Did you study those?
      If you’re going to hide behind a fake name to throw mud, document a little of it.

      • Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 01/16/2014 - 11:43 am.

        Yes John Smith, the books were cooked!

        When applying for bonding funds to renovate the hall, according to reliable sources, the aid of a public relations firm was used to determine how much of the endowment should be drawn down to make the books “well done”. As far as our bankers go, they appear to be quite successful at banking, but not very good as directors of the MOA. And by the way, Mr. Smith, we like rich people. “Some of our best friends are rich.” (We also like Obama Care and think its a good idea.) Finally Mr. Smith, you might even consider us rich, though heaven knows either Mr Campbell or Davis likely earn more in one year than we have earned in our lifetime.

  8. Submitted by David Markle on 01/15/2014 - 08:39 pm.

    Fine journalism

    Doug Growe provides a thoughtful and quite comprehensive vista. I hope that legislators continue to press the Attorney General to do some forensic auditing. During the lockout, what happened to the presumably dedicated funds given to endow certain positions in the orchestra?

  9. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 01/16/2014 - 06:49 am.

    Glad it’s over

    I hope Osmo comes back and this story sinks into the background. I never vote republican and I have no affinity for rich people like the ones running the MOA and I hate executive bonuses, but after a year of reading all these emotional, nearly hysterical, posts my the fans of the musicians, I am closer to the other side than I ever have been. All the posts full of invective and name calling, demands for things that will never realistically happen (“open” books, demands fro the legislature, etc) have pushed me to the position that there was too much unreal thinking and sense of entitlement on the side of the musicians and their supporters and that had as much to do with this fiasco as Mr Henson’s character and approach. As more than one person here has said, time to give it a rest.

    • Submitted by Amy Adams on 01/16/2014 - 03:14 pm.

      For someone who wants it to rest…you show up a lot.

      I suppose it’s just possible that an entire community of devoted orchestra fans could be so infuriated that they express vehemently and tirelessly their opinions about the waste and destruction caused by the lockout. I have no idea why that would bother anyone other than the board or management, or someone with an anti-union agenda, or someone with a small chip on their shoulder.
      Since you’re not buying tickets, not contributing money and not supporting the musicians…why don’t YOU give it a rest, Bill?
      Some terrible damage was done, and it’s ok to articulate it and learn from it.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/16/2014 - 11:33 am.

    I’m happy it’s over as well but…

    I some lingering questions and have join the chorus demanding more transparency. Not just out of curiosity but a nagging suspicion that the lock-out was as much if not more driven by ideology that MOA’s financial acumen.

    For instance according to publicly released figures MOA claims to be spending (I’m approximating here, I don’t have time to look it up) around $4-$5 million in direct concert expenses above and beyond the musicians salaries. That works out to around $100k per concert. Well, you or I could rent the hall with all the bells and whistles including one of their pianos and put on a concert for around $10k. Why does it cost MOA almost ten times more to produce a concert with it’s own orchestra? Looking at their rental rates it shouldn’t cost MOA more than $500k a year to produce it’s concerts. And that is NOT including travel, those figures are accounted for separately. Whatever they’re doing may not be a violation of accounting rules, but it certainly isn’t transparent.

    Another thing that catches my eye is the fact that despite having no concerts for 15 months they only spent around $1.5 million less in “other” salaries and administrative costs. My memory fail me but that looks like around a 25% decrease. Doesn’t that mean that 75% of their “other” salaries and administrative costs have nothing to with the orchestra or concerts? Who and what are those expenses?

    We’re talking millions of dollars here. I’m not indicting anyone, I’m just asking: “What’s the deal with these concert expenses and administrative costs?”

    The point here isn’t to embarrass MOA. The point is that if we have serious mismanagement taking place, it will much more difficult if not impossible to maintain the orchestra in future.

  11. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 01/16/2014 - 12:09 pm.

    Happy, happy transparency, accountability, and democracy

    Please explain why “open books” and transparency would never realistically happen. Those are actually Standards of Good Practice in running non-profit organizations. Any new board leadership and management could choose that model over the past “opaque” model. I do not believe it is “emotional, nearly hysterical” to call for good governance.

    A problem with the organization is the closed, self-appointing board structure. There needs to be an elected board, with input from musicians and accountability to all stakeholders (donors, patrons and the community). I’m sure it would still include many large donors, and nominations could come from within as well as outside the board. I do not feel the need to cast blame on any individuals at this point, but I will blame the governance model for being a terrible one for handling crises and settling disputes.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/16/2014 - 02:55 pm.

    “Please explain why “open books” and transparency would never realistically happen.”

    I didn’t say that. But from just a little personal experience in disputes, one party is never satisfied with the disclosures of the other party as long as it is in the first party’s interest not to be. In the case of the orchestra dispute, labor was asking a lot of questions about stuff that had no bearing on the orchestra’s current finances but which had the potential at least, to be highly embarrassing to orchestra management. Now that the dispute is settled, I would expect that kind of questioning to cease. As the orchestra goes forward, it’s in the interests of neither management or labor to give the impression that the orchestra can be trusted with the public’s money.

    As for transparency, nobody really wants to wash a lot of linen in public. In this case, in the internal deliberations of both labor and management, I am sure lots of things are said and done that the parties wouldn’t want to be made public, negotiation strategies for example. And for the most part, I don’t think the public cares. I never ask to look at the books of any charity I happen to contribute to. If, for any reason, I thought the charity was untrustworthy, I wouldn’t demand a look at the books, I would simply send my money elsewhere.

    If people want an orchestra where they have a say in running it, they are perfectly free to organize one. Again for myself, I have no expertise in orchestra management and have little interest in acquiring it. I read in the paper that as part of the settlement, that members of the orchestra will have greater opportunity to give their input into management decisions. I wonder, after a while, how many orchestra members of the orchestra will avail themselves of that opportunity. It seems to me that one of the many benefits of being blessed with great musical talent, is that it gets you out of a lot of committee meetings, For grievous sins I must have committed in a previous life, I have attended way too many committee meetings, and when I do, I always feel like Malcolm MacDowall in the movie “A Clockwork Orange” when he is forced to watch those violent videos. Musicians should count their blessings on that score.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/16/2014 - 04:40 pm.


    I always thought it was problematic for either side in the Minnesota Orchestra dispute to bad mouth the other. Let me put it this way. It’s not necessarily a good idea to bore holes in the hull below the water line of a ship which you might be boarding as a passenger at some later date.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/16/2014 - 05:15 pm.


    “labor was asking a lot of questions about stuff that had no bearing on the orchestra’s current finances but which had the potential at least, to be highly embarrassing to orchestra management. ”

    Such as?

  15. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/17/2014 - 05:39 am.

    Public financing

    Such as?

    They were raising a lot of questions about public funding of the Orchestra Hall renovation.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/18/2014 - 09:15 am.


      “They were raising a lot of questions about public funding of the Orchestra Hall renovation.”

      How is that “irrelevant” to the current funding situation?

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/19/2014 - 06:13 am.

    Money spent

    Because that was money that had already been spent. It couldn’t be used to pay musicians.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/19/2014 - 10:12 am.

      Huh? again

      “Because that was money that had already been spent. It couldn’t be used to pay musicians.”

      Two things: First, since we’re talking about the orchestra budget, past expenditures are not irrelevant, and in this case, the issue was management decisions and financial claims. I’m not denying bad decisions are embarrassing, but I don’t the musicians raised these issues just to embarrass MOA. Second, you keep claiming that the musicians were making “several” demands merely to embarrass MOA. Well, even if we grant this one, that’s ONE.

      Finally, I hate to say this to the guy who frequently educated us regarding he basics of “negotiations” but in any negotiation everyone has to play the cards they end up with, and everyone seeks leverage where they find it. This is predictable, and should be predicted by any competent negotiator. Apparently MOA assumed that the musician’s would suffer in silence until the weight of their financial burden force them to accept an unacceptable contract without compromise. I don’t if someone told them to expect that or if they thought it up on their own, but it was contrary to everything we know about basic labor disputes and negotiations. Furthermore, this isn’t just about bad-mouthing. Another basic consideration in any negotiation is future contracts and establishing positions for future negotiations. Obviously if one side caves entirely they may be in a weaker position in the future. These things are never pretty but this dispute was initiated by management and a lock-out is an extreme play to crush labor. Its silly to complain that management suffered abuse at the hands of the musicians when management inflicted direct and serious financial damage on the musicians for 15 months. People fight for their livelihoods, if you don’t have the stomach for that fight don’t start it and then whine about being insulted.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/20/2014 - 06:45 am.


    First, since we’re talking about the orchestra budget, past expenditures are not irrelevant, and in this case, the issue was management decisions and financial claims.

    Try spending money from three years ago on this year’s expenses. For myself, as I look forward to this year, I just don’t think a lot about what I spent money on, three or four years ago. Management of every entity makes a myriad of decisions which are capable of being second guessed. It’s quite possible that they agreed to pay the musicians way too much in the last contract negotiation. Maybe that was the fundamental management mistake that proved so costly this time.

    I think the musicians very definitely raised these issues to undermine the credibility of this management with the board. What other result was possible? It’s not as if they could get the money back from the renovations.

    “I hate to say this to the guy who frequently educated us regarding he basics of “negotiations” but in any negotiation everyone has to play the cards they end up with, and everyone seeks leverage where they find it.”

    And how did that work out for everyone? Upon repeated review, management were supported as reasonable. And in terms of negotiatiing strategy, just about the worst thing can happen in terms of attaining a successful outcome is for one of the negotiating partners to lose credibility or authority. It simply is impossible to reach a deal with someone who doesn’t have the power to make a deal, or once a deal is made, to make it stick. It may well be the case that labor’s unwillingness to make a deal with the specific group of negotiators they were faced with, is what prolonged the dispute.

  18. Submitted by elliot rothenberg on 01/20/2014 - 10:23 am.

    let’s trade

    How about a trade? Kelley and Henson and cash for Maestro Vanska. It would be better than any recent trade by the Twins.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/20/2014 - 10:59 am.

    MOA financials were not found reasonable

    “And how did that work out for everyone? Upon repeated review, management were supported as reasonable.”

    MOA financial disclosures raised more questions than they answered. Like why does it cost MOA ten times more to produce a concert with it’s own orchestra in it’s own rent-free hall than it does to rent out the hall to someone else? The argument that $5 million had to come out of the musicians salaries failed. Besides, you can’t have it both ways, you can’t claim that MOA’s credibility has been damaged on one hand and then claims that their credibility was never in question on the other.

    Yes, musicians questioned MOA credibility, those were legitimate and valid questions, not just PR stunts. Look, has the MOA brand been tarnished? Sure. That tarnish however stems from the decision to lock out the musicians. It’s funny, you never seem to ask how the lock-out “worked for everyone?”

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/20/2014 - 03:19 pm.

    MOA financial disclosures raised more questions than they answered.

    That has to do with the physics of questions. There are always more questions than answers, because it’s easier to ask questions than answer them. Whenever someone says “there are too many unanswered questions”, they stating a basic condition of life. There always have been and will always be too many unanswered questions.

    “musicians questioned MOA credibility, those were legitimate and valid questions, not just PR stunts>

    If the players don’t like working for a bad orchestra, they are free to seek employment elsewhere.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2014 - 11:27 am.

      The “physics” of questions?

      “There always have been and will always be too many unanswered questions.”

      Now you’re being silly. So people never make decisions satisfied they have sufficient information to make a decision? There are “always” too many unanswered questions? Really? No, not really. I didn’t have any unanswered questions when I bought my Nikon D300, or my Civic, or married my wife. We had one unanswered question about our dog, but that wasn’t one too many. And I hate to tell you this but the whole point of contracts is to eliminate unanswered questions, and we work with contracts ever day. You think you bank issued you a mortgage even though they had too many unanswered question about you? Please.

  21. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/21/2014 - 12:00 pm.

    “So people never make decisions satisfied they have sufficient information to make a decision?

    Decisions are often made on insufficient information, or not as much information as they would like. The settlement was reached contained features about future contingencies no on can predict with any certainty now, specifically the piece of the endowment action given to the players.

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