#760 – Dick Bernard: The End of the Line for the late-great Minnesota Orchestra?

UPDATE August 19, 2013: here
UPDATE: August 18, 2013: In the middle of this commentary are some pertinent thoughts about what is happening at the Minnesota Orchestra. Note the four paragraphs which start with the para “While no one has…” and end with “Do rank and file donors….”
My spouse alerted me to an article in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Proposal but no orchestra deal”. It is worth reading carefully.
In our paper – we’re long-time subscribers to the Star Tribune – only a serious reader would have found the article on page B3 of the Metro Section. The link in the on-line version is similarly in the shadows, within the Entertainment section. Perhaps it is because the [*]. Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Michael Klingensmith is also on the Board. I doubt the writer had free rein to report as he saw things….
This Lock-Out (a management strike against labor) is not Entertainment.
Little more than a week ago I was at a meeting where the speaker noted that the Minnesota Orchestra Management is represented by the same law firm which represented American Crystal Sugar during its deadly lockout of Union workers at its Moorhead plant. That Lockout lasted well in excess of a year; the union was decimated; many of the workers left for other jobs…the same formula applies against a world class Orchestra. (There is a famed piece of audio tape from 2011 where the CEO of American Crystal Sugar, speaking to a friendly audience, compared a Union contract to a large Tumor needing to be removed (the audio link is at the end of the article). Labor, pay attention, pay very close attention.) (See note at end of this post.)
As it happened, the day after I heard that the labor consultant for the Orchestra Association management was the same as for American Crystal Sugar, I happened to be in the area of the present day American Crystal Sugar Plant in Moorhead MN.
From a distance, it is a bucolic looking sort of place, but get closer up and all pretense of welcoming disappears.
(click on photos to enlarge)

July 7, 2013 early a.m.

August 7, 2013 early a.m.

American Crystal Sugar Moorhead MN July 7, 2013

American Crystal Sugar Moorhead MN August 7, 2013

American Crystal Sugar entrance July 7, 2013

American Crystal Sugar entrance August 7, 2013

American Crystal Sugar office entrance Aug 7, 2013

American Crystal Sugar office entrance August 7, 2013

The signage I photo’ed was very benign compared with the signage near the entrance to the actual production area. Frankly, even from the street I didn’t have the nerve to take the photos where I felt intimidated, even simply stopping along the street across from the the guardhouse.
I was directly involved in collective bargaining for 27 years, as a representative of labor (public school teachers). In those many years, there were often times of tension, and very rarely there were strikes. But never did the management resort to locking out its union such as is happening here.
Management lock-outs are labor strikes on steroids. The intention is absolute control through union-busting. Imagine a community tolerating a 10 months strike by union workers. A friend, yesterday, was pointing out the Hormel lockout in Austin years ago.
I congratulate the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Union for hanging in there for now, nearing a year.
Check their website, and give them support.
From my vantage point, a good settlement for them will be one which they ratify. Absent such a settlement, my attendance at the Minnesota Orchestra in the future is likely history.

Footnote: Tomorrow some of us retired teacher union staff people will be having a re-union. I wonder what my former colleagues will have to say.
Related post here.
One would think that labor would support labor, but that is not necessarily true.
When the audiotape came my way in December 2011, from a relative, I responded, and then another relative who works in some non-union capacity at American Crystal Sugar in Moorhead responded as follows:
“You are missing one point* however….these people all have jobs to come back to, very good jobs, they have chosen not to sign the agreement. Most of the rank and file employee who call in every day all want to be back to work…they do not believe they can stand up to their union…… so it is sad…..they do have jobs…..
You certainly can read the agreement offered to them with good pay and good benefits and see if you disagree. Do you have free insurance with a $150 deductible per person/ $450 per family????? I think not….they have never paid a dime for insurance and they don’t want to…so their choice is to not sign and our choice is to keep our factories running and providing our customers with sugar…..so consequently we have and continue to hire replacement workers……..we all wish for a signed agreement but the outlook is not promising……
Also, yes the CEO did have a poor choice of words about the cancer and I know he did not mean it how it was taken, totally out of context…..if you knew the man, he is one of the most caring men I know. He has a heart of gold and is very established in the community and on the Board for the United Way for many years…..so don’t believe all that you read…..the media is very one sided……”

* – My relative was responding to this, which I had sent on December 6, 2011:
As you likely know, my full-time job for 27 years was representing teachers in a union with right to strike.
I learned many things in those 27 years among which were these:
1. Employee actions are very serious matters, not frivolous. If they happen there are very strong underlying issues, not always money.
2. The issues are distinct and different for each dispute, and unless I was there, on the ground, I don’t cast judgement on motives. Something is badly wrong.
3. By far the most offensive thing I’ve heard so far is the tape of the chief of ACS [American Crystal Sugar] comparing the union to a big tumor that has to be removed for the company to recover.

[*] August 18, 2013 the original version of this post, which was picked up by the Twin Cities Daily Planet, includes this erroneous statement: “owner of the Star Tribune, Douglas W. Leatherdale, was, back eleven years ago, in 2002, Chairman of the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra, and still remains on the big-business and wealth laden Orchestral Association Board.”
To my knowledge, Douglas Leatherdale is not part of the Star Tribune, and this was a “haste makes waste” error on my part. My apologies. I had listed the Board members in my June 21, 2013, post (see end of post for listing) and I could very easily have fact-checked this assertion. Again, my apologies.

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