Rep. Ellison urges Minn. Orchestra to accept mediator’s plan

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison today called upon the board of the Minnesota Orchestra to accept a proposal put forward by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who is acting as a mediator in the ongoing dispute with musicians.

The deal included ending the 11-month long lockout and having musicians return to work for two months under the terms of their old contract while talks continued towards finding a new contract.

If there was no deal after two months then musicians would take a six-percent pay cut and talks would continue for another two months. If after that there was still no deal then the lock out would return.

The text of Ellison’s letter:

Dear Minnesota Orchestral Association Management and Board:

As someone with a deep love of music and a strong appreciation for the role arts play in the vibrancy of our community, I am writing to respectfully urge you to end the eleven month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians and accept the interim agreement proposed by former Senator George Mitchell.

The Minnesota Orchestra is a source of great pride for Minnesotans and is one of the institutions that make our state’s artistic culture so rich.  The lockout is causing serious damage and may lead to the opening of a world-class performance hall without a world-class orchestra to fill it.

With a deadline only days away before esteemed conductor Osmo Vänskä has said he would no longer be able to remain with the orchestra, the time is now to resume playing while continuing to work toward a negotiated settlement.

Both management and the musicians have legitimate concerns about the future of the orchestra, which is why a neutral mediator with the skill of Senator Mitchell is so critical to this process.  But I was baffled by reports that the board rejected an interim agreement proposed by Senator Mitchell to negotiate for four months, with a reduction in salary for the musicians after two months.

Without a formal negotiation process in place that ends the lockout and does not overly favor one side, the orchestra risks the loss of additional musicians who cannot afford to continue without pay, and now, the potential loss of its conductor.

I sincerely hope that you accept Senator Mitchell’s proposal and move forward with a mediation process that can help preserve the asset we all cherish.

Keith Ellison

Orchestra management has rejected the proposal on the grounds that t would cost the organization almost $3 million, with no guarantee of a settlement at the end. Locked out musicians have repeatedly called for management to accept the mediators proposal.