Reality Check – September 10

250px-Cloud-computing-reality-checkThe Musicians are working tirelessly outside of the public eye to settle our contract dispute with the MOA (Minnesota Orchestral Association), with the help of the independent mediator. Each of the musicians and their families have donated one year’s pay and benefits to the Minnesota Orchestra, not with hopes of higher salaries, but with the hope of a great orchestra to serve the Twin Cities and state.

While we work toward a resolution, we cannot let recent disingenuous assertions made by the MOA stand unchallenged:

1. The MOA’s most recent offer proposed “…a return to work at expired-contract rates for a two-month period of “play and talk” negotiations…”

Who would possibly believe that the MOA, after locking the musicians out for nearly a year, would negotiate in good faith during those two months when their own cuts, ranging from 25-42%, are guaranteed to snap into effect for the balance of a two-year contract?

2. The MOA refers to an “average annual salary” of over $102,000.

The real annual base salary contained in their proposal comes to $84,903, resulting in a 25-42% pay cut for every performing musician.

3. One of the MOA’s most persistent drumbeats, parroted by the Star Tribune editorial board, is that “…the agenda of [the Musicians’] New York labor attorneys doesn’t match the best interests of Minnesota audiences.”

Our “New York Labor attorney” has quietly settled two contracts in Cleveland, an orchestra which was then able turn its united energy to raising young people’s attendance, ticket revenue, and revenue-generating residencies by promoting its brand as one of the world’s most excellent ensembles. These same inspiring results are achievable here in Minnesota, a community that prides itself on excellence.

 4. “The board negotiating committee will meet anytime, anywhere, without preconditions, to negotiate,” and their proposal includes “Revenue sharing with musicians if the Orchestra met its earned income budget.”

A lockout IS a precondition, as any negotiator or mediator is aware. And as reported in the Star TribuneManagement has said it will not lift the lockout because it then sacrifices leverage.

References to “revenue sharing” are an obvious red herring. Management continues to refuse access to the basic financial documents needed for transparency. The Musicians have yet to see the 2013 budget, annual reports and annual contribution reports for the past 15 years, the 2014 budget and season, and the current total of all orchestra endowments.

Minnesota’s best interests:

  • Is it in Minnesota’s best interest to have its leading newspaper embrace the notion that we can’t afford the world-class arts organization we have sustained for 110 years, even as arts giving is increasing?
  • Does the New York advisory consultant hired by the MOA for their bought-and-paid-for financial analysis have Minnesota’s best interests in mind when he echoes the MOA’s downward spiral thinking, without any comparative research?
  • Does the MOA’s lawyer, who locked out the Crystal Sugar workers for 2 years, have Minnesota’s best interests at heart when applying hardball industrial tactics to an organization that depends on the goodwill of the community for donations?

We think not.

Our Past and Our Future:

  • The Musicians self-produced and performed 18 concerts for Minnesota audiences during our locked-out 2012-2013 season, offering free school and community concerts and helping to launch El Sistema in North Minneapolis with concerts, donations for instruments, and a regular volunteer classroom teaching presence. By contrast, MOA management spent $13.7M this past year and did not produce a single concert.
  • The Dayton Family and Veteran Board Members who have a deep love for great music have generously nurtured the Minnesota Orchestra to its recent status as the “world’s greatest.”
  • Audience Members and Patron Support Groups have banded together, written and rallied, to fight for the preservation of Minnesota’s treasure.

We believe all three groups have a common interest in the quality of life for our community. We continue to believe in Minnesota’s arts leadership and community-wide values of excellence. The Musicians envision a future in which we believe in ourselves and what we do best, sharing that passion and serving you, our community. We cannot do that with the ideology of defeat trumpeted by the current MOA leadership team. We can do that only by working together in a respectful and good-faith mediation process to rebuild a world-class orchestra for Minnesota.

Thank you for listening.

Negotiations Update | August 7, 2013

We are currently in a quiet phase as we attempt to enter mediation with our management. Our negotiating team is working day and night to try to move toward a solution. However, right now we must respect the explicit request of our potential mediator by not commenting on anything regarding this process.

Negotiations Update

After agreeing to a ‘fresh start’ to negotiations on Jan. 2, Musicians and Management entered into discussions determining how to proceed with the joint independent financial analysis. These initial discussions resulted in a late January proposal by the musicians of a highly qualified individual to perform the analysis. Management responded in mid-February by submitting a different name for consideration. After researching management’s suggestion, Musicians responded in late February by submitting a proposal for the analysis to be performed jointly by management’s suggested person as well as an additional individual put forth by the Musicians, each having a different skill set and qualifications that would complement the other.

As of March 19, Management has yet to respond to that proposal.


The following letter was sent to Jim Nobles, Office of the Legislative Auditor from 100 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The Minnesota Orchestra is a world class performing arts organization. It adds immeasurably to the quality of life in Minnesota through its performances both at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and in school and communities across the state.

The State of Minnesota invested significantly in a fact and future of the orchestra as a world class entity. It places Minnesota on the map nationally and internationally and adds to our region and state’s economic competitiveness. In recognition of that status, the State of Minnesota invested $16 million in public monies though bonding dollars to assist in the remolding of the lobby of Orchestra Hall and provides operating funding through ongoing Legacy dollars. We now find the return on those investments threatened by the lockout of the musicians and the logjam that the orchestra management and musicians’ representatives currently find themselves in.

News reports and review of the Orchestra President Michael Henson’s 2010 legislative testimony raise questions about the Orchestra’s financial situation with the public and legislators when requesting and receiving $14 million in bonding for a new lobby on Orchestra Hall. After the House Legacy hearing of February 18, 2013, there remains concerns about the public’s investments in the state’s largest arts organization.

The request and subsequent granting of Legacy funding for the 2012-2013 biennium was contingent and assuming that there would be an Orchestral season, since the current season has not begun and is cancelled through the beginning of April, gives us pause and concerns about the state’s investment. A portion of the State Arts Board of funding is to probide educational and community concerts throughout Minnesota. We understand that the lockout has denied youth from across Minnesota exposure to the Orchestra, as well as cancellations of concerts or events in the following communities: Bemidji, Osseo, Chanhassen, Forest Lake, St. Cloud/St. Joseph, and Winona.

It is in the State of Minnesota’s interest that this lockout be resolved in the quickest possible manner. Resolution of the lockout, the securing of a new contract between management and performers will allow the Minnesota ORchestra to return to its core mission of performing and educating across the region. A quick resolution will act to assure the preservation of the current corps of Grammy-nominated musicians, as assure a return on the public’s investment in this important cultural institution, its capital needs and operating budget.

Therefore, in representation of the state’s interests and assurance of the value of and return on its investments we the undersigned members of the Minnesota legislature request that the Legislative Auditor audit the books of the Minnesota Orchestra Association, including a review of its feasibility study for the remodeling of Orchestra Hall, a review of  the use of all public funds, and of testimony of Orchestra principals before legislative committees for and about securing of those funds.

Link to letter with signatures of the Minnesota House of Representatives 

Henson Should Open His Meeting to the Media and Musicians

Update, 2/27/13 | We are disappointed that management has once again rejected an opportunity to be transparent with the board, donors and the public. The Musicians cannot play our part in the future of the organization if we are to be silenced in the board room as well as on stage.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra call on CEO Michael Henson, in the interest of the transparency he often cites, to open up his invite-only negotiation briefing this Thursday to the public, media and the musicians.

Mr. Henson states he is willing to answer questions about the current status of management’s lockout of musicians this Thursday morning from 10:30am to 11:45am at the Oracle Centre on the 4th Floor in Conference Room 3.

The invitation to “vital stakeholders” of the Orchestra says that the meeting is “important,” and he offers attendees the opportunity for “…a full briefing on the current situation and answers to questions…”

There are three key reasons Musicians and the Media should be permitted to attend the briefing:

· In a hearing two weeks ago, members of the House legacy committee raised significant questions about public tax dollars the Orchestra has received from the Legacy Commission as well as the over $14 million in public dollars to remodel the lobby at Orchestra Hall.

· After four months of delay in undertaking the Musicians’ proposal for a joint-independent financial analysis, Management finally agreed in January, yet promptly cancelled virtually the entire rest of the season. Management has still not provided the detailed financial information the Musicians have requested.

· The Musicians have requested three times to address the entire board, and have been denied on each occasion.

We have noted that Mr. Henson’s lack of transparency to all stakeholders is now a concern to the public officials and taxpayers. He has never allowed the Musicians an open forum to ask him or the Board questions about his plan for the future of the Orchestra. We believe the public would be well served by a truly transparent forum.

Henson Faces Tough Questions from Legislators

Members of the House Legacy Committee yesterday delivered hard-hitting questions of Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson about the finances of the Orchestra and use of state tax dollars for bonding and Legacy funds.

“This seems like a cold-description of a balance sheet. It haunts me,” said Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL). “It seems convenient that the lockout corresponds with the construction project.”

“This seems the opposite of preservation of the arts, it seems as if it is the destruction of the arts,” Hausman said.  Hausman is the chair of the Capital Investment Committee in charge of bonding projects.

“I see the Ohio orchestra is attracting record audiences,” said Rep. Joe McDonald (R). “So it seems as though other areas of the country are finding creative ways to make this work.”

Multiple times during his testimony, CEO Henson said he would like to “speedily” resolve the situation with the Musicians.

Henson’s testimony contradicts his actions since August.

–       The Musicians first proposed a “joint-independent financial analysis” in August. Management initially rejected the request and only agreed in principle in January to the analysis.

–       Management recently cited the time it would take for the joint independent study as the reason for cancelling concerts into April.

–       Management has rejected three requests by the Musicians to address the full board of directors since August.

–       Management rejected four proposals from the Musicians including binding arbitration.

“For the past four seasons a number of weeks have been left unscheduled. Musicians asked the management to schedule outreach and education concerts, offering specific ideas,” Orchestra violinist Catherine Schubilske testified.

“The answer was no. Essentially these were weeks where the musicians were paid to stay home and no concerts were produced. An estimated $2M was wasted on these unused services,” Schubilske said.

The Minnesota Legislature continues to examine the actions of the Minnesota Orchestra Management including two hearings calling CEO Henson to testify regarding the lockout, and most recently the use of Legacy funds.

Other legislative concerns include:

–         Henson misleading the Minnesota Legislature about the orchestra’s finances during his testimony in favor of the orchestra’s bonding request. LISTEN:

–       The revelations in the Star Tribune story of Monday, November 26th, 2012 which revealed that Henson’s strategy was to show “balanced” budgets when requesting state bonding funds, but show large “deficits” at the time of labor negotiations . STORY: MINUTES:

House Legacy committee chair, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL) said the that Legacy Committee would likely meet again to discuss other options related to funding of the Orchestra. Henson left the committee without answering further questions from legislators or the media.

The Musicians issued a unanimous, secret-ballot “no confidence” vote on Henson in December.

Statement of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

No Season?

MINNEAPOLIS – One week ago, the management illustrated that they have no interest in trying to overcome the crisis they have created.  They gave the cold shoulder to Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Orchestra’s greatest benefactor Judy Dayton when these leaders asked Musicians and Management to set aside their differences for the Grammy celebration concert.

While continuing to build the $52 million Orchestra Hall lobby, with $14 million coming from taxpayer dollars, this latest set of cancellations through April 7, includes 10 Young People’s Concerts, as well as a week-long residency serving the community of Bemidji.  Through these cancellations, Management has taken another step toward throwing away the entire Orchestra season, leading us to ask, “Was this the plan all along?”

Management has lobbied for and received nearly $1 million in state support for music education and outreach, and this latest round of cancellations brings the total number of lost Education concerts to 18.  If Orchestra Management fails to keep its commitment to the community by continuing to cancel education and outreach concerts, we ask “Will taxpayers demand a refund?”

By cancelling these concerts, Orchestra Management has further eroded the public trust, already shaken by the legislative investigation into the misleading statements of Michael Henson when he requested state bonding money to help fund the lobby renovation.

We again call for Management to fulfill its commitment to the community and the taxpayers, by ending the 5 month lockout and reinstating these concerts.

Statement From the Musicians Regarding the Upcoming Negotiations

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have accepted the invitation from management to meet next week. Since October 1st, when management locked out the Musicians, we have stated that we are willing to discuss and negotiate in good faith at any time.

Since the management and board are now restoring the mission statement to read: “Our mission is to enrich, inspire and serve our community as a symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence”, and has stated that the meeting will be “without preconditions,” the Musicians will approach the bargaining table with an open mind.

Recent Press

We would like to share links to the three most visible news stories from the past two days:

Lawmakers call for hearing into Minnesota Orchestra Finances | WCCO News, December 20, 2012

MN Orchestra re-opens negotiation talks, cancels concerts | by Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio, December 21, 2012

Minnesota Orchestra invites musicians back to table | by Graydon Rocye, Star Tribune, December 21, 2012