MN Orchestra offers musicians 25 percent pay cut instead of 40 to get back to work

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra released a new proposal today that would allow the musicians to return to work on September 30 -- just in time to prevent its celebrated conductor from leaving -- while continuing contract negotiations.

The musicians, however, appear to have no interest in the new proposal, noting in a statement, "The offer management presented is the same offer the Musicians unanimously rejected a few weeks ago."

SEE ALSO: Forum tonight on the MN Orchestra as conductor's possible resignation looms

In July, George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine, agreed to step in and mediate what has been called the longest labor dispute in our orchestral history. The musicians say they'd be back to work by now if the orchestra board had accepted Mitchell's own proposal, the details of which were not available.

Under the new proposal offered by the board, the musicians would earn the same pay they did before the lockout, for a period of two months. If no agreement could be reached within that time, every musician would receive a 25 percent cut. The average salary would fall from $135,000 to $102,200 for the next two years.

Previously, the orchestra board had offered to cut salaries between 22 and 40 percent, on an individual basis. The average salary would have come out to $89,000 but it was rejected, and the musicians were locked out of Orchestral Hall on October 1, 2012.

The new proposal mirrors the old proposal in at least one aspect: both include 10 weeks of paid vacation and up to 26 weeks of paid sick leave.

The orchestra board has asked the Musicians' Bargaining Committee present the offer to the full orchestra for an anonymous vote by September 9.

Even with the new terms, the orchestra board is looking at a $2.2 million deficit over the course of the two-year contract.

"Our aim was to eliminate our deficit entirely," orchestra board chairman Jon Campbell said in a statement, "but the Board has put forward this compromise in the hopes of getting musicians back on the stage and audiences back in Orchestra Hall in time to launch a new season."

In April, Osmo Vanska sent a letter to orchestra chairman Jon Campbell and CEO Michael Henson threatening to resign as music director if the lockout wasn't settled by this fall. He pointed to upcoming recording obligations as well as performances at Carnegie Hall in November, which could be canceled because the musicians haven't practiced together in almost a year.

There was a time when Alex Ross of The New Yorker praised the orchestra for its "uncanny, wrenching power, the kind you hear once or twice a decade." But that was three years ago.

-- Email Jesse Marx at or follow him on Twitter at @marxjesse

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swmnguy topcommenter

When you look at who is on the Board of Directors of the MN Orchestra, this whole thing starts to make sense.  It's a collection of prime corporate hacks in the metro area, and a few corporate lawyers.  Mayors Rybak and Coleman, U of M President Kaler and Barb Johnson are honorary board members.

I've read elsewhere that several Orchestras nationwide had contacts between members of their Boards over the past couple of years, and these corporate types all know each other.  All of these Orchestras then went and locked out their musicians.  They had to collude so their musicians wouldn't have anywhere to go.

I've also read in other stories that Campbell, the Chairman of the Board, gets $400,000/year from the Orchestra, and that the Board thinks the musicians are greedy because the musicians want the Orchestra's biggest expense to be musician payroll.  Well, what the hell else should an Orchestra spend money on, other than musicians?  What do we go to see?  It's like when teacher-bashers complain that schools spend the most money on teacher salaries.  Oh, really?  What the hell else makes a school, if not teachers?

So it's the same failed bullshit corporate mentality that is ruining everything else in this country.  

And why the fuck should the musicians even talk to these clowns?  They aren't the ones who went on strike.  The Board refused to negotiate and locked them out, having talked themselves into going full Scott Walker and thining somehow them egging themselves on gives them leverage.  Like anybody ever in the history of ever has bought a ticket to see a bunch of corporate executives and corporate lawyer sycophants do anything.

The musicians should all quit and walk away, and all the donors should give money to high school and college music programs.  Let the West Metro corporate executives and the corporate lawyers who love to rub elbows with them for profit put together their own little talent show and see if anybody shows up.  They deserve to be mocked in public for destroying a great Orchestra for their own utterly misplaced egotism.

DavidFoureyes topcommenter

"Our aim was to eliminate our deficit entirely,"

Then do your fucking jobs and employee talented fundraisers. Tell me this board was not also responsible for approving the endowment used to renovate the OUTSIDE of the building. Shit, they were? Wow.

Why make the musicians suffer for these turds not knowing how to fund-raise? We have a world-class group of musicians and a lake covered in millionaires that need an excuse to look's not rocket science. Provide a world-class package to the musicians, do your jobs, or step aside.

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