The withholding of work from employees and closing down of a workplace by an employer during a labor dispute. (American Heritage)
It's a lockout, even if Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra management isn't referring to it as such. Following the collapse of negotiations over the weekend, management cancelled the first two weeks of its season, including this weekend's classical opener featuring newly minted Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski and next weekend's pops opener featuring Ensemble-in-Residence Time for Three.
Richard Graef, the ISO french horn player who's been the key spokesman for the musicians throughout negotiations, says musicians' key cards stopped working Saturday. At this point they may only enter the building with an escort to retrieve any belongings. And the musicians are under a figurative lockout, without a contract since Sept. 2. The ISO report being unable to reach an agreement with the union, while the union itself further details that their proposed two-month contract, which would have allowed musicians to “play and talk” at reduced wages, was rejected by ISO management.
The ISO's decision to initiate a work stoppage is consistent with the dominant trend in American labor negotiations: according to reporting in The New York Times in January 2012, “the number of strikes has declined to just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago,” while “lockouts have grown to represent a record percentage of the nation's work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA.”
(a) a snake, easily charmed
(b) a much-maligned option for workers and families who lose health care coverage to continue receiving group benefits provided by its plan
ISO musicians have posted to their website (isomusicians.com) a document (pdf link) purportedly distributed by ISO management noting that “because of the work stoppage (and the attendant reduction in hours), effective Monday, September 10, 2012, the Indiana Symphony Society, Inc. will cease making insurance payments on your behalf and your coverage will lapse unless you choose to continue coverage under COBRA at your expense.”
The ISO declined to comment on the document or on the health care benefits. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary for an employer to cease making benefit payments during a lockout. Nor would it be unique for an employer to resume payments during labor negotiations, as did New York’s Con Ed, having “bowed to public pressure,” according to a spokesperson, during the third week of a January 2012 lockout.
One of the ISO's complaints, on a document concerning labor negotiations posted to its website, concerned the health care plan in the expired contract, which required musicians to pay “less than 10 percent of the 'premium' for health insurance,” including up to $40,000 per year for massages (in total, not per person). Retired ISO musician Rosemary Rader answers the implicit challenge concerning the frivolousness of such massages in a letter submitted Sept. 10 to NUVO:
“As a string player, I can tell you that the wear and tear on your body is incredible. ... With the advent of a wellness program a few years ago at the ISO, the musicians are indeed permitted to use massage and other alternative physical therapies to address such issues to prevent surgery, and they are encouraged to follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen to improve their overall health.”
(a) employed for or involving full time
(b) devoting one's full attentions and energies to something (American Heritage)
The ISO's “Update on Negotiations” on its website notes that, under the now-expired contract, the ISO had to “pay full salary and benefits to 82 musicians, even though we use 82 musicians less than half the year” (underlining theirs, because we never underline anything). Yes, musicians do get plenty of weeks off, but it's the nature of the industry; brain surgeons, college professors and tightrope walkers also tend to get plenty of time off.
We included alternate opinions on that situation in our article on the symphony last week. They included the argument that the labor market is so poor that talented musicians will take part-time gigs — but if the market hasn't drastically changed, part-time employees will end up proving less talented and committed than full-time players. Common sense certainly says that a part-time player won't pass up a full-time opportunity at another symphony. And musicians would tell you that they end up practicing or otherwise working to maintain their skills on an off-week.
(a) the opposite of bad faith, a state which we are all in, according to French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; “I am a waiter in the mode of being what I am not” (Being and Nothingness)
(b) honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person or to fulfill a promise to act, even when some legal technicality is not fulfilled (People's Law Dictionary); “The ISO believed the musicians to be negotiating in 'good faith,' as of Aug. 31”
While musicians have accused the ISO of proposing a course that would destroy the orchestra, they haven't accused the ISO of acting in “bad faith,” in the legal sense. Nor has the ISO said as much of the musicians, as we suggested in an act of rather irresponsible mind reading in last week's NUVO, when we said that acting CEO Jackie Groth and ISO board members believed they were being forced into a “lockout” by a union “not bargaining in good faith.” To be clear, neither CEO nor board members used the terms “lockout” or “good faith,” and we regret suggesting as much. We were the ones in bad faith, but such is always the case, per definition (a).
Further, horn player Rick Graef reports that the lines of communication are still open between the union and the ISO. He says that while it seems unlikely that the two parties will meet this week, talks have decidedly not stopped. The ISO reports a similar sentiment in its “Update on Negotiations.”
(a) the family and company that makes everyone happier, either via its endowment or Prozac; “Lilly makes the city go round”
We're deep in a section of the dictionary concerned with correcting the historical record. We inarticulately described the relationship of the Lilly Endowment and family to the ISO last week, making ISO board chair (and Ice Miller lawyer) John Thornburgh “very upset,” according to ISO spokesperson Jessica Di Santo.
What Thornburgh actually said could be properly paraphrased thusly: While both the ISO and IMA have enjoyed material support from the Lilly family, the ISO started with an endowment half the size of the IMA's when the endowment was founded using Lilly family money.
(a) Seeking the advice or information of
(b) In a business environment, acting in an advisory capacity on professional matters
Here's our last clarification/correction until we inevitably err again, for we are human, all too human. In last week's article concerning the ISO negotiations, we noted that the ISO board had “consulted” with the League of American Orchestras and other peer orchestras while formulating its plans for a leaner, more versatile ISO. And while it's true that the ISO board chair John Thornburgh did indeed say he talked with the league and other orchestras, he never used the word “consulting,” which in its technical sense in a business environment, would mean that the ISO had secured the employment of a consultant.
“Consultation implies that the league and other orchestras gave input, advice and such in regard to our proposals. That never happens,” said ISO spokesperson Jessica Di Santo, requesting clarification on behalf of the ISO and League of American Orchestras. Suffice it to say that the colloquial sense of “consulting” would accurately describe what the ISO did, which was to seek data from the league and other orchestras to inform their decisions.
The ISO is also reluctant to consult with an outside party that the musicians suggest might be a force for good in negotiations. NUVO classical critic, Tom Aldridge, whose thoughts on the ISO situation can be read in full here, describes the situation: “It is difficult to understand the intractability of management in refusing outside examination recommended by the players from an experienced consultant in symphony/financial matters, e.g. Michael Kaiser, CEO of the Kennedy Center. ... If he could successfully outline a plan which retains much of what the orchestra has enjoyed and minimize the viewed-as-drastic nature of the currently proposed cuts in wages, players and programs, he will have done us a great service. No arbitration, nothing cast in concrete, just recommendations. What is the downside?”
Meanwhile, this writer can't help but think back to a quote by Greg Sandow, the Juilliard professor and writer on the future of classical music whom I interviewed last week. Sandow prescribed the following for the ailing ISO: “It's about the idea of treating it as an artistic adventure and not as a kind of folding that you inevitably do in the face of a crisis.”
Because the ISO isn't consulting with any orchestras or advisors, I'd like to point to one model that it might follow: the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. While facing a dire financial crisis, the Seattle Symphony rebranded itself as a contemporary orchestra with splendid results: $10 million in the annual fund last year, bringing the orchestra very close to breaking even, according to Director of Communications Mary Langholz.
A piece by Seattle-based Crosscut Public Media lays out the key points that contributed to the Seattle Symphony's recovery, paraphrased here, which were to (a) position the SSO as “a contemporary orchestra” that might directly appeal to an “alt-classical audience”; (b) refine the orchestra's sound with an emphasis on timbre and color, as opposed to a brassy, Chicago-style sound forged by a previous conductor; (c) open up the doors to all elements of the community (offering free admission to those under 18, as well as interacting with groups unlikely to walk into a concert hall like ex-soldiers and ex-offenders); and (d) reshape the image of the orchestra's home, Benaroya Hall, by bringing in non-classical performers that one wouldn't expect to see in a staid venue.
The ISO has tried some of the same things as the SSO — hip, alt-classical programming; reduced price tickets for students; a young professional's group; rentals that aren't totally out of touch with modern culture (Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens). Where the difference between the two orchestras comes into contrast simply has to do with the buzz the Seattle Symphony has built, largely by making efficient use of its vibrant new music director, Ludovic Morlot, who, believe it or not, was intimately involved with forging the symphony's new philosophy, in concert with the symphony's CEO.
Compare that to the ISO's situation, where our own shining star, Maestro Urbanski, is simply “aware” of how things are progressing with relation to labor negotiations (with which the ISO's leaner, meaner new musical philosophy is inevitably tied). Where, then, is Urbanski during all this? And why has he ceded control of much of the contemporary programming led by Time for Three in order to focus on the classical series, according to Time for Three violinist and ISO concertmaster Zach de Pue during an interview this spring?
More questions: Why wasn't Urbanski intimately involved with revamping the ISO's approach? Why was it left to a board that seems best poised to get its financial house in order, but not quite attentive the artistic necessities of an orchestra, particularly one that wants to poise itself on the cutting edge with respect to its structure and programming?
But to be sure, Urbanski is making his name. Several readers have shared a glowing Los Angeles Times review that raves about the conductor in his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. “Urbanski has already caught the attention of the music world, especially in Europe,” wrote Mark Swed on Sept. 5. “He is on the radar of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Indianapolis Symphony would be crazy to blow the opportunity Urbanski presents. If it does, someone else will snap him up in a second. I would if I ran an orchestra.”
(a) a thing produced by labor
(b) the totality of goods or services that a company makes available, output (American Heritage)
Finally, here's what's really been getting the goat of this writer over the past few weeks: the notion, popularized by management, that the ISO is an organization with several product lines (classical, pops, Symphony on the Prairie, Time for Three's Happy Hour, Yuletide Celebration), and that all of those product lines are somehow equal, such that one wouldn't sacrifice, say, Yuletide Celebration (with its dog and Santa acts), in order to save the orchestra for its classical series. And yet, my friends, a Frisbee dog and an oboist are not equal; a dancing Santa and a timpanist are not equal; Kenny G and anyone who plays an instrument in a classical setting are not equal. Such a notion is insulting to the musician — and insulting to the dog, that, after all, just can't seem to play mezzo forte on a consistent basis; it's just always forte, forte, forte with Rover.
[A+E] Classical Music, Current Events, Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Classical Music, Jazz + Blues + R&B