A few moments ago, the Star Tribune posted an article announcing that the Minnesota Orchestra management has made a new offer to the musicians.
When I first started my blog, I stated that I wanted to focus on writing longer analyses of the ongoing labor dispute between the Minnesota Orchestra’s management and its musicians. I recognize, however, that some of these deeper analyses have been… well, a tad too deep, so I’ll offer a different kind of blog here. Let me simply raise a few questions that come to mind.
1. Again, why are you being so conservative in your financial projections? I don’t ask this in a passive-aggressive way, but from real curiosity. As I’ve mentioned several times, there is a great deal of good news out there for arts organizations, despite the lingering effects of the recession: the market has come back, corporate giving has returned to pre-recession levels, donations to arts organizations have returned to pre-recession levels and is in fact the largest growth area in philanthropic giving, the arts scene is flourishing locally, and orchestras of all sizes from all geographical areas of the country are reporting exceptional growth. Why do you see such dismal times ahead? I’d like to see your research.
2. Why are you negotiating in the press, especially at this critical moment? The musicians’ rep quoted in the story remarked that he has not seen the proposal yet. Isn’t that odd? Senator George Mitchell is your chosen mediator. Why are you working around him?
3. Has the SOS Osmo campaign authorized you to use the money they raised in the manner you describe? It was raised with specific criteria in mind—have you met them? Or are you making an assumption that you can take the money? From this article, it almost sounds like they are part of the negotiations. Is that so? Can other third-party groups participate?
4. Broadly, does this in any way undermine your assertions that there’s no more money to be had? Despite your warnings about donors and the community at large being tapped out, it appears that you were able to procure $20,000 per musician in less than two weeks (since the date of your last proposal). Does this provide any hope that a larger campaign, over a longer period, could bring in additional revenue that could offset proposed cuts? Does this suggest a campaign specifically focused on keeping salaries high could succeed?
5. Does it seem odd that you have only offered to cut President Michal Henson’s salary now? Given your own argument the organization was in a financial free-fall, and that he was paid four times the musicians’ base salary, and that he too had received raises comparable to the musicians over the same period, and there have already been staff layoffs, wouldn’t it have made far more sense to make this cut previously? Why is it being offered as a concession at this point in the dispute… nearly 12 months in?
6. The numbers… in year 3, aren’t the musicians still at a 25% loss? Since this puts them in the same position in three years, is this contract really all that much better than previous ones?
I don’t suppose I’ll get specific answers to these queries, but here they are nonetheless. I’m curious as to how the musicians will respond to this latest offer.
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Edit: On Minnesota Public Radio, President Henson indicates why the management went public with this proposal: “We felt that it was important that as this offer was generated by the community that we actually make the community aware of this offer outside the mediation process.”
Well, this is an answer, yes. But this is, to be blunt, terribly out of line. The idea that the public should know because the money is coming from “the community” is embarrassing. By definition, all money is coming from the community, whether it’s from individuals, companies, foundations or the government. So why make this announcement? And why do so now, at such a delicate stage of negotiations? The only reason to make such a public announcement would be to expand its scope—to increase the number of people participating and the size of the donations. Is that your intent? Because it doesn’t feel that way. To be honest, it feels like a transparent PR ploy, which unfortunately violates several principles of fundraising. And contract negotiation.