Show your support: Stand with the Musicians

March 26, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Support | Leave a comment

The WCO Musicians will be holding an information picket followed by a march on the Wisconsin State Capitol. Come stand with us in solidarity.

Where: 321 E. Main, Madison
When: 3pm Friday, March 27, 2009
What you need: The urge to support the arts in Madison.


Todd Jelen on WORT Radio

March 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Informational | Leave a comment

todd_jelenTodd Jelen, the Negotiating Committee Chair, appeared this morning on ‘The 8 O’clock Buzz’ program on WORT 89.9 fm. The interview starts about 12:45 into the program and covers a gambit of topics including the history of our negotiations, the current situtation, and future ramafications of the WCO Boards current course of action.

The program can be streamed or downloaded from the archive page of WORT: (MP3 direct download)

Last-est, Best-est, Final-isist

March 26, 2009 at 10:34 am | Posted in Press Release | Leave a comment

March 26, 2009 Contact: Todd Jelen

MEDIA ADVISORY Phone: 216-314-2000

Last-est, Best-est, Final-isist

Offer for Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra??

  • What: WCO musicians picket WCO offices and march to Capitol to protest Board tactics in year-long contract negotiations
  • When: Friday, March 27
    Informational picketing at WCO offices, 321 E. Main Street , 3 p.m.
    March to Capitol at 4:15 p.m.; at Capitol 4:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Why: Sharing information about multiple NLRB complaints, all of which constrict Union rights to be equal partners in negotiations


Appropriate superlatives are becoming harder to find to describe the year-long negotiations between the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra musicians and management.

That’s never been more apparent than when the board’s March 23 “last, best and final” offer included threats of a worse contract offer if the musicians did not sign this last, best and final offer before April 24. The WCO board, which already has a substantial unfair labor practice action pending before the National Labor Relations Board, may have at least one more complaint as a result of their action.

The musicians haven’t been able to get an acceptable rationale for the board’s ultimatum. “This is just game playing,” said musician spokesperson Todd Jelen. “According to our legal counsel, the words ‘last, best and final’ means exactly what they say – last, best and final. Management cannot present a last, best and final offer, and threaten that the musicians will only make it worse for themselves if they don’t sign it.”

According to Jelen, this action will join a list of unfair bargaining tactics the union has filed against the orchestra’s board with the NLRB’s Milwaukee office. The case asserts that the WCO, by taking away previously negotiated contract terms, is punishing workers for standing up for themselves at the bargaining table.

The March 23 offer from the WCO board stated that “If the proposal is not accepted by April 24, 2009, Employer believes that the plans for its 2009 Summer Concerts on the Square Program might be affected and, therefore, reserves the right to modify its proposal, including the right to withdraw and change items in this proposal.” The musicians’ legal counsel indicated the March 23 offer is also suspect in that the WCO is seeking to extend the term of the new contract from the previously agreed Aug. 31, 2013; to Aug. 31, 2014. This would knowingly violate an American Federation of Musicians’ provision requiring that contracts that extend more than five years need to be approved not only by the local musicians but by the AFM International Executive Board.

Jelen said the two sides have several times been close to a fundamental agreement on the final remaining issues that led to an Oct. 1 strike. The major non-economic proposals originally separating the two sides, such as language concerning recordings and dismissal procedures, had been resolved.

However, when a Jan. 21 musician poll turned down management’s position on the two remaining minor issues, WCO executive director Doug Gerhart, under counsel from WCO’s board, withdrew a number of previously agreed upon contract terms. “We were later told that even if we had accepted their conditions in January that the board would not have ratified the contract” Jelen said. “We have kept our musicians informed each step of the way; for the board to renege on what was negotiated in good faith with Doug is not only inexcusable, it’s illegal.”

“We are used to management and the board abusing their authority and bullying us, but to cancel concerts instead of negotiating in good faith is irresponsible” Jelen continues. “Given their track record of canceling concerts rather then negotiating fairly, I wouldn’t put it past them to cancel Concerts on the Square just for spite. The citizens of Madison deserve better.”

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