Group Files Complaint Against St. Paul Chamber Orch.

The American Federation of Musicians, which represents musicians in negotiating agreements covering the use of electronic media, claims that the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has “repeatedly refused” to provide information that it reportedly wants in order to make specific performances available online.

The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) on Wednesday filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) management of refusing to bargain in good faith and for failing to provide requested information.
The AFM represents SPCO musicians in negotiating agreements covering the use of electronic media.
The AFM said in a press release that the SPCO has demanded that AFM permit the unlimited use of all recorded audio and video content made since the orchestra’s inception in 1959—but SPCO has “repeatedly refused” to identify the titles of the recorded works and the names of the musicians and artists who performed them. AFM President Ray Hair told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that his group intends to make the performances in question available online.

National Labor Relations Board spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday that the agency will conduct an investigation surrounding the complaint, which will include extensive interviews with both parties. If it has “reasonable cause” to believe that the National Labor Relations Act was violated, it would file an official complaint with an administrative law judge, who would then make a ruling at a trial.

The SPCO issued an e-mailed statement on Wednesday, saying: “We have consistently requested that the American Federation of Musicians bargain with us over issues important to our negotiations for a new contract. The AFM has refused to do so, and its actions in this regard violate the union’s duty to bargain in good faith under the National Labor Relations Act. We look forward to presenting our case to the NLRB and expect our position will be fully vindicated.”

Aside from the AFM’s just-filed complaint against the SPCO, the orchestra’s labor contract with musicians continues to drag on.

After 10 months of unsuccessful negotiations between the two parties, musicians were locked out in October and a number of concerts have been canceled since that time.

The musicians’ contract expired at the end of September, and the two sides initially agreed to a “play-and-talk” proposal, which allowed musicians to continue playing under the terms of their existing contract while negotiations continued. But that agreement ended in late October.

Earlier this month, the SPCO proposed a new play-and-talk proposal that it said would preclude further concert cancellations while the groups continue to work toward an agreement. According to the SPCO, the musicians requested more information and agreed to additional in-person meetings that will resume Monday.

Salary remains a key sticking point in the labor dispute. To see the management’s latest proposal with regard to pay and other arrangements, which was presented to musicians February 8, click here.

Both of the Twin Cities’ premier orchestras are battling financial difficulties. Since 2008, the SPCO has reduced annual expenses by $1.5 million—largely through a 17 percent reduction in staff and the elimination of staff salary increases and pension contributions, Dobson West, president of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Society, told Twin Cities Business late last year. The orchestra’s annual budget is roughly $11 million, and it faces a deficit of about $1 million.
The Minneapolis-based Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians have been locked out for five months, and that labor dispute also doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.