Locked out ASO musicians receiving chorus of support nationally, locally

Nationally and locally, there have been growing expressions of support for Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians, who were locked out by management Sunday morning when extended negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement did not lead to a new contract to replace the expiring one.

Like the statement from the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra released Tuesday, supporters of the ASO musicians have particularly strong words for ASO management for locking the musicians out for the second time in as many years.

On Sunday, ASO president and CEO Stanley Romanstein said the lockout was necessary because the two sides had spent eight months talking without making enough progress toward an agreement. The ASO finished fiscal 2014 with a $2 million deficit and is carrying an additional $5 million in debt, and Romanstein and Woodruff Arts Center president and CEO Virginia Hepner have said they are determined to halt the red ink.

Here are summaries of the recent statements and letters of support for the ASO musicians ...

American Federation of Musicians International President Ray Hair:

“Stanley Romanstein has again resorted to starvation as a weapon in his quest to extract unjustified concessions from his employees, all to pay for his failure to manage one of America’s leading orchestras. Romanstein’s starve-out tactics are an indication of his inability to lead the institution. He also knows the orchestra would never voluntarily bow to his reckless and regressive demands to cover the company’s self-inflicted wounds. ...

"By attempting to establish a feudal system, which would destroy the lives of musicians who have done nothing but bring joy to the community, Romanstein is threatening to destroy the institution itself. I doubt that citizens of Atlanta would want that to happen."

Musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in a statement on Facebook:

"It is unfortunate that the management of the ASO does not recognize the potential artistic pitfalls their current proposals would create, as explained on the musicians' website (www.atlsymphonymusicians.com). The epidemic of planned lockouts of the artists who make up our great orchestras is deplorable, but they will only serve to solidify and strengthen the community of classical musicians of this country. We have seen it here in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Met -- just to name a few. The proud and artistically gifted symphony orchestras of this country have taken decades to grow into the cultural treasures they have become. They must be protected and treated as such now more than ever."

Steve and Lynne Steindel, co-editors of the newsletter of the ASO's Patron Partnership (a level of ASO patrons that donate $2,000-$9,999 yearly) in an email to fellow patrons:

"With the announcement of the lockout by ASO management, Lynne and I find we can no longer support their position through our work with the Patron Partnership Cabinet. Effective immediately we are dropping off the Cabinet and stepping down as co-editors of the newsletter. It is now time for true ASO supporters to stand behind our musicians and their conductors and stop the degrading of this wonderful ensemble. Since we can’t use the newsletter for this purpose we are stepping down. ...

"Lynne and I have supported the ASO through tickets and donations all of our 38 years of married life, even when times were fiscally strained for us. We have paid for the growth to world-class status once. We will not do it again. Nor will we sit inside while it is happening."

Ken Meltzer (ASO program annotator) and Carolyn Meltzer (in a letter to Virginia Hepner posted on Facebook):

"Over the past three years, we have contributed approximately half of Ken’s ASO salary back to the Orchestra.

We were distressed to hear of the inability of the parties to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the midnight Sept. 6 deadline. We were even more distressed to learn that this failure has resulted in a lockout of the ASO Musicians — the second lockout in two years.

"A lockout is a drastic step, resulting in the suspension of employee compensation and, potentially, health care coverage. It is a step that should be taken only when the previous Agreement is unsustainable, and could put the Orchestra and the WAC in severe financial peril. That was the argument made two years ago when the Musicians were locked out for the first time. Following that lockout, a new Agreement was reached, in which the Musicians made unprecedented concessions. ...

"The WAC assures us that, while the previous Agreement was unsustainable, the new one, requiring more concessions from the Musicians, will bring economic stability. We are at a loss to see how this position will have any credibility with the public at large, and donors in particular, given the events of the past two years. Further, a second lockout in two years of the same Musicians who have fulfilled the terms of Agreements the WAC approved, suggests a complete lack of respect for them, and for members of the public who treasure their music-making. We urge the WAC to reconsider the decision to impose this second lockout. We believe that the long-term consequences of such a severe, insensitive action will have devastating effects upon the future of the Atlanta Symphony as a world-class Orchestra."

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