Negotiation Updates

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 | March 19, 2013

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.

Update on the Lockout of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra
January 2, 2013

Today, in the first negotiating session since the Management locked out the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra on October 1st, 2012, the parties agreed  to discuss a process for a “fresh start” to negotiations.  Discussions will continue in the next few days.

Musicians Respond to the October 1st, 2012 Lockout

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra express our deepest regret to our loyal audience members that the Association has cancelled all concerts through November 25th. On Saturday, we unanimously passed a motion to “play and talk” while an agreement could be reached so that the music would not stop.

Unlike other event cancellations, the Association is not automatically refunding money to ticket holders.

Today we renew our call for a joint, independent financial analysis of the Association’s finances. We remain deeply concerned about discrepancies in management’s financial reports and find it disturbing that they would lock-out the musicians and cancel concerts rather than undergo a transparent and independent analysis of the Association’s finances. We ask, “What more is Michael Henson hiding?”


Despite multiple requests, the Orchestra Management and Board have failed to provide a copy of the approved 2012-13 budget to the Musicians.

The Management and Board have not provided any audited financial information to the Musicians more recent than August 2011.

In September, the Association touted they had raised $97 million in the Building for the Future campaign, including $14 million in taxpayer funding for the $50 million lobby renovation project.

Negotiation Update from September 24, 2012

On September 24, the Musicians met with the Board and Management in separate morning and afternoon sessions totaling six hours. The parties were also joined by a Federal Mediator.

In the morning session, Musicians renewed their concerns that Board and Management’s proposals would irreparably damage the artistic quality of the orchestra.  In a presentation lasting one hour, each musician from the negotiating committee spoke about the orchestra Musicians’ dedication to the community and the orchestra, highlighting the high level of artistic achievement that the orchestra has achieved, and reminded the Board and Management that it should be our common desire to grow and nurture the institution. Musicians further argued that successful organizations do not ‘cut’ their way to success, and that, in fact, budget cuts only lead to more budget cuts.

After a short caucus, the parties returned to the table and received a presentation from the Board Chairman on the state of the orchestra’s endowments. Board Chair Jon Campbell expressed regret at the Board and Management’s handling of the endowment funds over the past ten years, noting that they had been unhappy with the advice they had acted upon and had to change investment advisers. Campbell also admitted that the Board and Management had been wrong in 2007 regarding their investment predictions.

After lunch, Musicians asked questions related to the most recent endowment charts, with the main question being: Where does the $97 Million that the Board has raised thus far (in the Building for the Future Fund) fit into the total endowment structure? The Board and Management did not answer, but said they would provide that information later.

Further questions were asked pertaining to conflicting information contained in the endowment report.

The meeting proceeded with an assurance from the Board and Management that the Musicians would receive answers to these questions later, as well as a revised proposal.

Given the number of outstanding unanswered questions, combined with the inconsistencies found within the Board and Management’s financial information, the Musicians again renewed their request for a joint independent analysis of the orchestra’s finances.

Finally, Musicians requested to speak to the entire Board of Directors at that evening’s meeting, and be given an opportunity to offer their morning presentation. The Board and Management rejected that request.

Negotiation Update from September 7, 2012

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have called for a joint, independent review of the Association’s finances. Please see the Star Tribune article from last night by Graydon Royce for full details.

Negotiation Update from September 6, 2012

During last week’s negotiations the Association agreed that the Musicians were entitled to a more transparent view of orchestra finances. Instead of sharing the information the Musicians requested through the established negotiation process, yesterday the Association chose to use the media.

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are saddened and confused by this attempt to negotiate the contract of a world-class orchestra through the media.

When Osmo Vänskä arrived in Minnesota, he challenged the Musicians to become one of the best orchestras in the world. We have answered that call. The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have brought international acclaim to the Twin Cities. Now the Association stands ready to penalize the Musicians for the achievement of world-wide recognition, breaking its promise to the community to safeguard a world-class orchestra.

The Musicians gave back $4.2 million in concessions and savings to the orchestra during the recession. Two years ago, we offered an additional $1.5 million in reductions that were rejected by the Association.

Please be aware that the information in this public relations tactic by the Association differs in many ways from the actual contract proposal that is being negotiated in private.

In the coming weeks the Musicians will continue to negotiate in good faith. We will strive for a contract that ensures that Minnesota retains a world-renowned orchestra that continues to attract the finest world-class musicians to serve its community.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, greater Minnesota, at Carnegie Hall, and all over the world, people have noticed… We have played our part.

Negotiation Update from August 30 & 31, 2012

On August 30 and 31, the Musicians met with the board and management in two sessions totaling 5 hours.  The parties continued to discuss both artistic and financial issues, and agreed to meet again in September.


Negotiation Update from July 20, 2012

On July 20, the Musicians’ Negotiating Committee met with management and six Board members in a three hour afternoon session. Discussion continued from the previous meeting, as the Committee continued to seek clarification of management proposals. The Committee also gave a brief historical narrative summarizing the Minnesota Orchestra’s rise to become recognized as a top ten American orchestra.

While acknowledging the support and efforts of the Board and management in helping to build the orchestra to its current status, the Committee continued to strongly caution that management’s current proposals would seriously diminish the artistic quality of the orchestra in its ability to retain and attract the best musicians possible and, thus, jeopardize its current top-tier status.

The next meeting is scheduled for August 30.


Negotiation Update from June 15, 2012

On June 15, the Musicians’ Negotiating Committee met with the management and six Board members in two sessions, totalling five hours.  The Committee continued to press for answers, explanations, and rationale for management’s sixty-nine page proposal, which seeks over 275 changes on virtually every single page of the current contract (a contract built over more than half a century of good faith negotiations). Management provided limited answers and promised more to come.

The Musicians’ Committee repeated deep concern that management’s proposals, if adopted, would seriously compromise the artistic quality of the Orchestra, but committed to continue to meet and negotiate in good faith.

The parties agreed to meet again on July 20.


Negotiation Update from May 28, 2012

The contract between the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestral Association expires on September 30, 2012.  Negotiations for a new contract began in April.

Attorney Bruce Simon of Cohen, Weiss and Simon is representing the musicians.The negotiating committee is chaired by Tim Zavadil, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, and includes Burt Hara, Principal Clarinet, Cathy Schubilske, Violin, Tony Ross, Principal Cello, Doug Wright, Principal Trombone, as well as Brad Eggen, President of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union Local 30-73, American Federation of Musicians.

Attorney Paul Zech of Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon and Vogt is representing the board and management. Their committee is chaired by Richard Davis and includes board members Jon Campbell, Nicky Carpenter, Doug Kelley, Nancy Lindahl, Jim Melville and Greg Pulles, as well as Michael Henson, Bryan Ebensteiner, Bob Neu and Esther Saarela from the orchestra management team.

The musicians of the orchestra have entered these negotiations in good faith, committed to preserving the high level of artistic distinction and recognition that has served our community for generations. We are committed to both artistic and financial sustainability and have begun a constructive dialogue to that end.

On April 12, the musicians agreed to begin contract negotiations an unprecedented six months before the end of the current contract, with the sole intent of maintaining the high artistic standards the community expects and deserves.  We are hopeful that the board and management share this vision.

On May 18, the musicians made both general and specific inquiries regarding the management’s proposal.  Management provided answers to some questions and indicated its intent to respond with more information to other questions at a later date.
The next meeting is scheduled for June 15. Please check for updates from our negotiating committee.

Press Room

4 thoughts on “Negotiation Updates

  1. An important “bottom line” is the percent of budget earmarked for mucisians (not staff) compensation (wage and benefits). Benchmark this, and work rules, against the top five orchestras. Good luck!!

  2. I was blown away to learn from Graydon Royce’s article in today’s Tribune that the board hired a public relations firm rather than an accounting firm to determine how to manipulate the balance sheet. Its amazing that Jon Campbell and Richard Davis even needed help owing to their exalted positions in the banking industry. It would appear that endowment income can pay for administrative and executive salaries without paying for performances. (Actually, no one really wants to go to the Convention Center anyway, but we sure would if you were playing.) I fear nothing will happen until this summer when the board will bend and be reasonable, as they don’t want an empty remodeled hall. Be assured that Mrs. Horowitz and myself are firmly with you and will help with anything we can do.

  3. It is ludicrous that we are in mid-July and the most recent “update” is March l9. Regardless of who is to blame for this, SOMETHING must have happened since March. It is time for both sides to stop shutting out the public from what is going on, if indeed anything is. If nothing is, let’s at least hear that officially in writing, and get to work to correct the situation. A great orchestra is withering on the vine. Any private corporation would have taken steps long ago to get itself moving, even if heads had to roll in the process.

    • Thank you for your very understandable question. We, too, are frustrated that our orchestra has been silenced for so long. 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.

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