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More Anti-Union Rhetoric from the League of American Orchestras

January 25th, 2012 No comments

The League of American Orchestras (LAO), formerly known as the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) has ramped-up their anti-collective bargaining rhetoric lately. LAO’s latest publication: Fearless Journeys: Innovation in Five American Orchestras is yet another in a string of “new model” discussions that champion this message. The book claims to provide “hard evidence” through a small sample study that orchestras can become more “sustainable” by taking risks and modifying their collective bargaining agreements. Of course there is no mention of the established alternative where the fundamental right to bargain is¬†expressly prohibited as the organization wanders aimlessly to the public trough only to reward their administrators.

LAO vice president Bruce Clinton recently made headlines here in Denver while forcing this very agenda on the CSO and it was a only a stroke of luck that he resigned from the CSO board before succeeding in his hope and efforts to shut the orchestra down. In his 10/7/11 interview on Colorado Public Radio, LAO President and CEO Jesse Rosen provides cover for Clinton while displaying his own ignorance of the facts through his comments: “The disappointment that I feel about it is that there is so much really important work for orchestras to be doing; to continue to innovate, to continue to grow, to deepen their connections to the community. What we see in Colorado, unfortunately, is a group of constituents who have yet to align themselves around a shared set of vision and direction.”

Please give yourself a pat on the back for funding LAO’s self-serving, anti-union agenda. LAO was recently awarded a $100,000 NEA grant to “strengthen orchestras through learning and leadership development” while focusing on “best-practice models” at their annual conference.

The bulk of LAO’s funding comes through membership dues that range from $150 to $29,120 annually. Dues are typically collected as a line-item expense from orchestra budgets without consent or knowledge of members of the orchestra. If union dues were collected in this manner I’d be writing this column from prison.

The LAO made headlines again in a January 4 story in the Oregonian reporting on why the Oregon Symphony dropped their LAO membership. “I find the on-going discussion around the need for a “new model” dispiriting” said Oregon Symphony President Elaine Calder. “At an annual cost of $17,000, the benefits of membership were not worth the expense.” The cost of an LAO membership ranges from $150 to $29,120 annually through a dues structure that places the highest burden on mid-size orchestras.

For many of the same reasons the Youth Orchestras of the Rockies (YOR) recently opted not to renew their LAO membership after their board reviewed the matter. Commenting further on this decision, DMA Vice President and YOR Music Director Thomas Blomster said “The YOR Board of Directors asked what we were getting by being members of the LAO, as most of the Board didn’t even know who or what the LAO is. I responded that we get the privilege of using the LAO’s logo on our website and programs, and the LAO clogs our email boxes with information that is of very little use. All this for a membership of $150 a year, not very much money, but $150 the YOR Board felt could be better spent.”