Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wearing of the Button

Today, MPR reports on air that the SPCO and their musicians have reached a tentative agreement, but they still need one more piece: successful negotiations with the National Musicians' Union regarding digital rights.  What I'm seeing online is a different story.  The two sides are talking, perhaps close to an agreement, but they have not yet agreed on anything.  This is an example of putting too much out there in the media.  Who knows what's really happening?  Isn't it a little like crying wolf?  Who will believe you when you actually do finally reach an agreement?  I'm thinking that sometimes people talk too much.

On the other hand, and west across the Mississippi River, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) and the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are apparently still working out what they want from an independent financial analysis.  The Board of Directors has finally invited the musicians' negotiating committee to attend one of their meetings and give a presentation on their side of this contract dispute -- something the musicians have requested since before the lockout on October 1, 2012.  From my perspective, management is the side that's dragging its feet, not the musicians; although management would have the public believe that it's the musicians.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, their official name at the moment, will perform a concert on April 25 in St. Paul at St. Catherine's University.  Conductor Emeritus Stanislaw Skrowaczeski will lead them in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Principle Clarinet Burt Hara as soloist, and Anton von Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, The Romantic.  This will be their fourth concert during the lockout.  I'm beginning to think they may be better off without the MOA.  They would need a staff to support their activities, of course, but why couldn't they tell the MOA they're all leaving -- they have been effectively laid off -- and create a new orchestra?

Why, indeed.  They'd probably lose the Endowment, for one thing.  I've still thought that Orchestrate Excellence might be able to help out in creating a support organization for them.  However, it would be a massive undertaking.  Would they have the Twin Cities' and Minnesota's support?

Source: Musicians of MN Orchestra

 The musicians offer for sale buttons, T-shirts, and lawn signs to their audience and supporters.  I see the lawn signs on lawns in my neighborhood and others in the Twin Cities.  A friend gave me one of the buttons.  I bought a T-shirt after one of the earlier concerts.  I wear both proudly.  Especially the button that I have pinned to my black wool winter jacket.  The button is chartreuse green and purple, so it stands out.  People stop me on the street and ask me about what's happening with the lockout.  Some want to know where to buy the button, or what they can do to support the musicians.  A counter clerk in the Post Office asked me last week if I was a musician.

"No.  I used to work there.  It's a terrible situation right now."

"Yeah?  Have they reached an agreement?"

"No.  They're not talking.  I've read the contract that management offered them.  If ever there was an optimum time for a union, this is it.  The contract offer is awful."

She nodded.  "Just like here."

Her reply startled me.  But yeah, I guess postal workers do have a union.  I'm not a huge fan of unions, actually.  The redline agreement -- management's contract offer -- guts years of work by the union to insure safe, secure and friendly working conditions; boundaries on what management can and cannot ask or do; etc.  Management's offer and their behavior during the last year looks an awful lot like an attempt at busting the union.  Of course they don't want the union.  The union protects the musicians, insures they are paid a living wage and benefits, and establishes an equitable work schedule.

My button will stay on my wool jacket for a while -- we're supposed to have snow tonight and tomorrow, up to 14 inches by some predictions, so spring will be cool this year.  I'll wear the button and the T-shirt until the labor dispute has been resolved.  Proudly.

Source: Musicians of MN Orchestra

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