Harmony eludes musicians, symphony Union files complaint against management

November 19, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians, frustrated in efforts to win their first union contract, have filed a federal complaint alleging that symphony management is not bargaining in good faith.

The musicians allege that since last spring, symphony management has been stonewalling and stalling in negotiations, which ASO officials deny.

"We have had meetings, but our problem is, nothing has been accomplished at the meetings," said Jack Hook, administrative officer of the Baltimore local of the American Federation of Musicians.

"We categorically deny those charges," countered Jane Schorsch, ASO executive director. "The union called off our latest meeting last week."

Negotiations came to an abrupt halt Wednesday, when the union canceled a bargaining session.

Musicians say the talks are going nowhere, with management offering no counterproposals to union positions and showing what they call an anti-union bias. Symphony management says the talks are progressing and blames musicians for the latest falling out.

Each side accuses the other of rescinding segments of an agreement in progress.

The ASO has individual agreements with some 75 musicians at salaries of around $2,500 for the seven-month season. Musicians said they receive no benefits.

Louis J. D'Amico, director of the National Labor Relations Board's Baltimore office, confirmed that he received the complaint yesterday and that he will request a response from the symphony.

But symphony management is likely to seek dismissal of the complaint based on the size of the orchestra.

The NLRB sets $1 million in revenue as a base for taking jurisdiction over symphony orchestras, said ASO lawyer Gary Simpler. The symphony's receipts are below that, he said.

Distressed over string seating, travel reimbursement and what it considered unfair treatment, ASO musicians voted last year to have the union represent them.

Symphony management moves violin players from higher to lower seats within the section, a rotation the musicians say is unfair and smacks of demotions. Simpler said the ASO thought it had an agreement in principle on seating and that the union's rescinding it "did not further the negotiation process." Musicians say there was no such agreement.

The flap has unnerved the performing arts community.

"There is nothing in the world like playing great music. I'm sad, because sometimes the music is what gets lost," said Annapolis Chorale Director J. Ernest Green, who served as staff conductor of the ASO for five years until schedule conflicts and budget cuts ended his role this fall.

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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