BSO mu­si­cians file la­bor com­plaint

Union ac­cused orches­tra of not bar­gain­ing ‘in good faith’ dur­ing lat­est round of con­tentious ne­go­ti­a­tions

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND NATION & WORLD - By Sameer Rao

As the Bal­ti­more Symphony Orches­tra inches ever closer to its first sched­uled con­cert of the 20192020 sea­son on Saturday, its mu­si­cians have brought their griev­ances with man­age­ment to the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board.

The mu­si­cians’ union an­nounced Tues­day morn­ing that it filed an un­fair la­bor prac­tice charge with the NLRB. Ac­cord­ing to a copy of the charge that the Play­ers’ Com­mit­tee emailed to The Bal­ti­more Sun, the union ac­cused the orches­tra of not bar­gain­ing “in good faith re­gard­ing wages, hours, and other terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment” dur­ing the lat­est round of con­tentious ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“Since on or about June 17, 2019, Bal­ti­more Symphony Orches­tra (BSO) has failed, and con­tin­ues to fail, to bar­gain in good faith re­gard­ing wages, hours, and other terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment with Lo­cal 40-543, AFM, the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing representa­tive of the Mu­si­cians of BSO," ac­cord­ing to the form. “Specif­i­cally, BSO has un­law­fully locked out bar­gain­ing unit em­ploy­ees to ef­fec­tu­ate uni­lat­eral im­ple­men­ta­tion of terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment with­out reach­ing im­passe. BSO has also failed and refused to pro­vide rel­e­vant and nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion re­quested by the Union in bar­gain­ing.”

Play­ers’ Com­mit­tee cochair Brian Prechtl told The Sun that both sides ap­peared ready to come to an agree­ment dur­ing Mon­day’s ne­go­ti­a­tion meet­ing. Man­age­ment’s com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing both the orches­tra’s sea­son and play­ers’ pay by nearly 20 per­cent re­mained a stick­ing point, he said.

“They seemed ab­so­lutely in­flex­i­ble on this point,” Prechtl said. “And we sug­gested, look, let’s keep talk­ing, let’s come back to the ta­ble on Thurs­day, [and] they refused it, they re­jected that.”

Prechtl added that the com­mit­tee then pro­posed other com­pro­mises that he de­clined to spec­ify on the record, cit­ing pos­si­ble fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions.

BSO pres­i­dent and CEO Peter Kjome, for his part, noted that the orches­tra lifted the lock­out on mu­si­cians as of Mon­day. He added in an email to The Sun that man­age­ment pre­sented two op­tions to the mu­si­cians to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion ahead of the new sea­son.

The first is “a one-year com­mit­ment to in­creas­ing mu­si­cian com­pen­sa­tion” through spe­cific do­na­tions that “al­ready ex­ceed $1 mil­lion." The other op­tion in­volves ex­tend­ing the last agree­ment’s terms, “in­clud­ing salary and ben­e­fits,” un­til the end of 2019; in the mean­time, the orches­tra’s leg­isla­tive work group and a board com­mit­tee would col­lab­o­rate “with mu­si­cian par­tic­i­pa­tion” on fu­ture plans.

“The Bal­ti­more Symphony Orches­tra is com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to bar­gain in good faith with our mu­si­cians and we hope that we can come to a res­o­lu­tion soon,” Kjome wrote.

Nancy Wil­son, the act­ing re­gional di­rec­tor of the NLRB’s Bal­ti­more of­fice, did not im­me­di­ately re­turn The Sun’s re­quest for com­ment Tues­day.

The mu­si­cians re­turned to pick­et­ing Tues­day with a silent ac­tion in which they donned all-black out­fits and stood sin­gle file with in­stru­ments in hand.

“This is a solemn protest of the de­struc­tive po­si­tion our lead­er­ship has com­mit­ted to by choosing to im­pose their terms,” Prechtl wrote in a fol­low-up email. “This will have dis­as­trous ef­fects on the Bal­ti­more Symphony Orches­tra for decades.”

Prechtl’s fellow co-chair, Greg Mul­li­gan, clar­i­fied via email that the union will still vote on what it termed the orches­tra’s “take it or leave it” of­fer, which in­cludes the afore­men­tioned 20 per­cent re­duc­tions.

The BSO mu­si­cians, who are or­ga­nized un­der Lo­cal 40-543 of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Mu­si­cians, are not the first or­ches­tral mu­si­cians to file charges with the NLRB dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Michael Hayes, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of law at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more, pointed to ex­am­ples of sim­i­lar charges that AFM lo­cals levied against or­ches­tras over the past few years.

For in­stance, the NLRB ruled last year that the Colorado Symphony could no longer avoid pro­vid­ing rel­e­vant con­tract in­for­ma­tion to its mu­si­cians dur­ing col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. Con­versely, it dis­missed Chicago Symphony Orches­tra mu­si­cians’ charge that its man­age­ment acted in bad faith in the same year.

“The lessons from all th­ese cases in­clude that to ac­tu­ally get the NLRB to file a com­plaint, as much evidence as pos­si­ble, and as strong as pos­si­ble on both there be­ing no im­passe and that the em­ployer has ne­go­ti­ated in bad faith (e.g. failed to refused to pro­vide re­quested in­for­ma­tion), can make all the dif­fer­ence," Hayes wrote in an email to The Sun.

Read the full text of the charge and mu­si­cians’ ac­com­pa­ny­ing state­ment at bso­mu­si­cians.org.

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