ATLANTA (PAI) – For the second time in two years, the intransigent board majority of the Atlanta Symphony, seeking to cut costs by firing orchestra members, locked them out, Sept. 6.
The workers, members of the American Federation of Musicians, are drawing wide support, however. Symphony board members who tried to avert the lockout and were rebuffed resigned. Music Director Robert Spano spoke out in favor of his orchestra.
The lockout is “a one-sided attempt to force the orchestra to its collective knees,” Spano told the British newspaper, The Guardian.
Atlanta board chair “Stanley Romanstein 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,” said American Federation of Musicians President Ray Hair. “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.”
The lockout in Atlanta follows an earlier lockout by the Minnesota Orchestra board. And this summer, the managing director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera came close to locking out all the opera’s unions. In all three cases, management wanted to cut costs by cutting jobs and pay, allegedly to cut deficits. The Atlanta board majority claims the orchestra is running a $2 million deficit.
The Atlanta board majority locked out the Musicians two years ago. Then, the orchestra members agreed to cut the ensemble’s size from 95 to 88, and take a pay cut. Now it’s down to 80. Hair said the Atlanta Musicians took a 14 percent pay cut, too.
Now, Hair says, the symphony wants unlimited cuts and to slash health insurance, too. “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,” Hair said. “I doubt that citizens of Atlanta would want that to happen.”
Photo: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with Music Director Robert Spano conducting. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.