Although it comes as no real surprise, the Louisville Orchestra (LO) board of directors rejected the musicians’ latest offer on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. In response, the musicians’ media contact released a statement announcing they will conduct a press conference today at noon (CT) to discuss their now rejected proposal. There’s nothing earth shattering there but there is something of interest by way of the final two sentences from the letter issued to the musicians by LO attorney, James Smith.
The LOI Board has nothing further to discuss with the Union and the LOMB. These negotiations remain hopelessly deadlocked and at impasse.
In addition to Smith’s letter, the LO board issued their own press statement on 4/4/2012 to expand on the reasons for rejecting the musician’s proposal. According to the statement, the board was only willing to accept binding arbitration per the terms of their previous offer, which musicians have already rejected.
Maisch also said that the musicians did not, in fact, offer or agree to binding arbitration, a process that typically provides for a neutral arbitrator certified by the National Academy of Arbitrators. “We suggested allowing a certified arbitrator, to make decisions regarding all remaining issues in a multi-year contract. That is a common method to close complex collective bargaining agreements,” he said. “Instead, the musicians proposed having an external consultant unilaterally make all decisions for the orchestra.”
The problem here worth pointing out again, and one of the reasons that led to the musicians rejecting the offer initially, is the board insisted on choosing the pool candidates from which both sides would select a “mutually agreed upon arbitrator.” That’s akin to saying that you can have a jury of your peers and both lawyers can go through the juror elimination process but the initial pool of jurors will be selected solely by the prosecution from among a group of eligible jurors. Oh, and the prosecutor doesn’t have to say why those jurors were selected other than the fact that their names were on the list of eligible jurors.
Although that aspect had been made clear in their offers prior to the musicians’ rejection, it has been omitted from the board’s recent statements on the matter.
Moreover, it is also worth pointing out that quotes from LO board chair, Chuck Maisch, insinuate that the board may feel as though there may be hanky-panky going on vis-a-vis the role of representation during bargaining.
“The motivation to send our letter came from written statements made by a number of musicians that they were already in agreement regarding the most critical aspects of a contract that would ensure fiscal sustainability, including a maximum of 55 salaried musicians.”
Unfortunately, there was no additional information about where or when these written statements from musicians appeared, how many musicians constitute “a number,” nor the context of the respective statements.
It isn’t unusual during bitter labor disputes for both sides to feel that the other has members who are less than stalwart for the cause so to speak, but it hasn’t been addressed openly like this until now. Maisch’s statement may be in retaliation for remarks made by musician representative Kim Tichenor to the LO board during their 3/26/2012 meeting (Tichenor is still an ex-officio member of the board).
[The musicians] know that some of you have reached out with questions that need to be answered honestly. Some of you have been prevented from getting answers to your questions or talking to us, while others have been given answers that are faulty, misleading or simply untenable. As some of you and your business colleagues have begun to realize, our differences are not as great as the LOI leadership has led you to believe – especially now as these realizations, facts and truths are trickling out in many conversations and occasionally in the press.
Be prepared for both sides to continue claiming the other is misrepresenting statements etc. and in the meantime, don’t expect much to actually get accomplished.
For the moment, what isn’t mentioned, referenced, or otherwise reaffirmed in any of the recent LO communication is what the board plans to do in wake of rejecting the musician’s latest offer. For months now, they’ve been going on about hiring replacement musicians but that doesn’t seem to be working out the way some of the LO leadership may have imagined. And this is one of the first communications in recent months that doesn’t reference replacement musicians; moreover, the likelihood isn’t very high that they would have any better luck than the Kentucky Opera had at filling all the open seats without heavy personnel subsidies in the form of high school and college students along with a liberal infusion of non professional musicians.
At this point in the game, there is increasingly less to examine beyond more of the same accusatory language unless one of the following events transpires:
- The board decides to convert from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7.
- The board decides to put the shortsighted replacement orchestra scheme into motion.
- The musicians decide to cave and accept the board’s most recent offer.
- The board caves and proposes an offer in line with previous musician demands.
Based on the evidence to date, the most likely of those options unfortunately seems to be “B.” As a result, it might bring one of the following questions to mind.
If you were a member of the LO board, would you want to continue as a steward of public trust in this environment? If you were one of the musicians, would you pack it in and head out for greener pastures?