Minnesota and St. Paul Contracts Expire; Musicians Locked Out

Article excerpt

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have been locked out since October 1, when their previous contract expired. Without official notice, management ceased payments, benefits, and health insurance. Six weeks of concerts-through November 25-have been canceled. This is the first lockout in the orchestra's 100-year history.

Management made a "final offer" calling for musicians' annual salary to be cut from $111,000 to $77,000, while significantly increasing health insurance costs. The contract proposal also included more than 250 changes to work rules, which would erase more than 40 years of accumulated working protections.

That proposal was rejected September 29, but musicians did everything they could to save the beginning of the season, offering both binding arbitration and a "play and talk" agreement, where they would perform under the terms of the previous contract while negotiations continued. Management rejected both offers. In response to management's "final offer," the musicians continue to call for an independent, joint financial analysis.

"The musicians remain strong and galvanized through this difficult time finding employment opportunities with other major symphony orchestras throughout the country and abroad," says trombonist Douglas Wright of Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN). "It is truly a sad day when the musicians of our world-class orchestra are able to share their talents elsewhere, while being locked out from doing so at home."

Orchestra members held a mid-day rally outside of Orchestra Hall October 1, the first day of the lockout, to draw support from the community. They also organized a standing-room-only, sold out performance (with more than 2,100 people in attendance), under the direction of Minnesota Orchestra conductor laureate Stanislav Skrowaczewski of Local 30-73, on October 18 to replace the first canceled concerts of the season. …