Marilyn Carlson Nelson: A call to Minnesota Orchestra musicians

  • Article by: Marilyn Carlson Nelson
  • Updated: September 6, 2013 - 12:24 PM

Musicians can do the math, too. I hope they’ll reconsider a proposal this community can afford.

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mikehessSep. 5, 1310:36 PM

"But initial proposals are starting points" - this is a significantly different position than when the musicians were locked out, and the board made their "final offer", immovable on the amount of budget cuts and work rule changes. If the board would agree to the mediators proposal to get dialog going again with the 4 month period hopefully a successful contract negotiation would occur. Whatever that play and talk structure is, it has to have some consequences for management beyond defaulting to a near capitulation of the musicians. There have been too many public statements from board members and management making it clear it's not important to them if the current talent stays or goes, if the season starts or not. If there are other board members as thoughtful as Ms Nelson hopefully they will see the wisdom of ending the lockout and getting a mediated agreement going. If the musicians have already accepted this agreement, to return to work, negotiate and provide a counter proposal, but its the board that refused a 4 month period of work, why is it in the musicians hands then to save the orchestra?

sukhinoSep. 5, 1310:36 PM

Last's week proposal was NOT a "compromise proposal" - it was a proposal which involved NO risks for the Management, and no incentive to negotiate, due to the automatic 25% pay cut the musicians would automatically take if no agreement were reached after two months. All orchestra management would have to do is run down the clock and they get everything their way. Let's not forget that for the past year of the lockout, the musicians have taken a 100% pay cut. Let's also not forget over 250 changes to work rules and conditions which would also be forced upon the musicians. This isn't about money. It's about power and control.

nchalkerSep. 5, 1311:27 PM

The Musicians DID agree to come to the table under the conditions proposed by the Board’s hand-chosen mediator, Senator George Mitchell. It was the Board who refused to compromise. Why is the board afraid of mediation? Why is the board afraid of an INDEPENDENT financial analysis (the one released this week, which was completed in June and was withheld for dramatic PR effect, was NOT independent, it was bought and paid for by the MOA)? Why should anyone believe that the recent MOA proposal was made in good faith? The MOA has no incentive to negotiate, they can simply stall until the negotiation period is exhausted and get their 2-year contract with massive cuts and destructive work-rule changes. MOA: demonstrate good faith by ending the lockout without precondition, accept the negotiation terms of your own mediator. Then we can believe you.

jlestribSep. 5, 1311:34 PM

Marilyn Carlson Nelson is a very intelligent business leader and a thoughtful and caring person. Thank you Ms. Nelson for being the first voice from the orchestra direction too speak respectfully and caringly about our extraordinarily talented musicians. It is a breath of fresh air, desperately needed. The point has been stated in an earlier comment that the musicians were presented in 2012 with a "final" offer and have been locked out now for 11+ months. While you speak well of the need for compromise and of starting positions, please understand the different picture the MOA management and negotiating committee have created. Your thoughtful voice could go a long way towards helping end this dispute, starting with valuing the musicians as you have done. Osmo Vanska is next on that list. The other senior MOA leaders seem all too ready to throw all of the musicians and Maestro Vanska under the bus or out the back window. "They are all replaceable." As a senior business leader, you know all too well that great talent is not easily found or replaced by any means. I certainly hope your voice of caring and concern is also being directed to the MOA leadership and negotiating committee. They urgently need to hear from you.

akadamsSep. 6, 1312:50 AM

Ms. Nelson, this financial analysis has problems: it's not independent, it leans heavily with management bias, and for some's dated June 10, but wasn't released until September 4. Is there some sound reason for that?

mnorchfanSep. 6, 13 6:20 AM

Non profit and for profit entities all have to follow the same laws of math and physics. Money in has to match money out. Non profit art entities and widget factories are the same. Just like a Walmart store, a subway sandwich franchise, plumbing business and the Minnesota orchestra are the same. If you dont have a product or service of value , that isn't the customer or the markets fault, that is the fault of selling something the public doesn't want. And guess what happens then, your revenue doesn't meet expenses and you shouldn't exist. It is a very democratic way actually. There is no grand conspiracy, people just don't care for this classical music product as much as they did in the past and this why 70% of the musicians salaries have to come from charity. Then again unions haven't wanted to pay attention to what people actually want, and instead serve the greed of a collective mob.

chezjakeSep. 6, 13 7:19 AM

Thank you, Ms. Carlson. It’s refreshing to hear directly from a Board member (other than the Chair), and especially from one as devoted to the music and the musicians as you are. I just want to urge Minnesota Orchestra management to lift the lockout and return to the negotiating table with the musicians and your mutually-chosen mediator. I understand that the musicians have agreed to this and have a contract proposal ready to deliver. If both “sides” demonstrate a willingness to assume a little risk, the orchestra’s fans will be encouraged, this nightmare can end, and (I believe) concerts will be sold out and an untapped spring of contributions will flood the MOA’s development office! Your and your family’s contributions to this region’s physical, intellectual and emotional health are legendary. Live performances by The Minnesota Orchestra are so important to the health of so many of us; please continue to use your influence to ensure that they continue.

ubetcha101Sep. 6, 13 7:31 AM

YAWN, did we the common folk miss anything?

unseeliectSep. 6, 13 7:47 AM

Ms Carlson, thank you for your dedication to the orchestra and the community... and thank you for elevating the tone of this discussion. I'd point out that while I respect your view, I still think the power between management and the musicians is too unbalanced to simply ask them to come to the bargaining table. Thus far, the musicians have shouldered nearly all the burdens of the dispute. The management has locked them out, and forced them to take deep, personal financial hits for the last year, and have gotten their fair share of vilification in the press (I know both sides have experienced this last point). It may be unfair, but I can bet many of the musicians feel like prisoners handcuffed in a cell, with a guard standing over them saying "Please, do as I say. I don't want to have to taze you again." Part of the feelings of trapped helplessness on their side come from the fact that the board hasn't been completely open with them about the finances--the latest "independent" study was hardly independent. As a savvy business leader, I can't believe you would enter into negotiations with so few independently verified facts. But thank you for working to end the dispute... we need more voices like yours.

lee4713Sep. 6, 13 7:59 AM

Ms. Carlson, I believe that the future of our orchestra could very well be in YOUR hands - this is the first thoughtful and rational commentary by a member of management or the Board which I have read. We are all aware of the money issue, and that is significant. However, those of us who are familiar with ALL of the issues know that power and trust are also essential. Given that the Board has had a position for over a year of "take no prisoners", your commentary is a good "starting position". As you say, a new season could be a great start for even more success - but Osmo and the current musicians are essential to that success. Please persuade the Board to withdraw their many punitive and humiliating changes to working conditions to show that they really do respect the musicians as you say they do, and persuade them to return artistic control to the artists so that, in business terms, the "product" can retain its quality and appeal. Only then can we all move forward.


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