Labor dispute between musicians and Symphony Orchestra continues

Sept. 8, 2021 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – The contract dispute between the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has continued to the point the National Labor Relations Board may step in.

MOSSO released the following statement on Aug. 30: “The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) Region 1 today announced that it would be issuing a complaint against the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for its failure to comply with its contractual obligation to send out hiring notices to its musicians for ten (10) performances and failure to comply with all hiring guarantees contained in its prior collective bargaining agreement with Local 171 AFM.  The NLRB notified Union counsel that a formal complaint would be served on SSO if it does not achieve a settlement of the unfair labor practice charge the Union had filed against it.  At present the SSO and the Union have been involved in collective bargaining negotiations but as of yet have failed to arrive at an acceptable agreement.”

John Anz, the interim executive director of the SSO, told Reminder Publishing, “Our understanding is that the NLRB plans to issue a Complaint if the parties are unable to reach an agreement in the coming days. We remain in active and ongoing discussions with the union and reserve our right to comment if the Complaint is actually issued.”

Beth Welty, a long-time musician with the SSO, told Reminder Publishing MOSSO recently sent a counter-proposal to the Symphony management, but have not yet received a response. She said no board members for the Symphony are apparently serving on the negotiation team and the union is communicating with the SSO attorney through email.

The season has not yet started this year due to the labor dispute and Welty said SSO management has offered five concerts starting with the traditional Holiday Pops program. MOSSO would be willing to do that if the contract would cover a second year.

She said the lack of progress has been “very sad, very discouraging.”

Long-time conductor Maestro Kevin Rhodes is no longer with the SSO, she said.  

Anz noted, “And, while it is true that Kevin Rhodes’ contract expired back in May, it is also true that we have been in conversation with Maestro Rhodes since May about his participation in an upcoming season once an agreement is reached with the musicians.”

Welty said MOSSO is looking for venues for performances of classical music. She said a group of musicians may perform at this year’s Mattoon Street Arts Festival.

[Performing] is our number one priority,” she said.

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