American Federation of Musicians and Local 58 Fort Wayne Musicians Association Fail to Respond to Repeated Requests to Negotiate
Fort Wayne Philharmonic Board Votes To Extend Musician Health Care

Fort Wayne, IN (December 2, 2020) — Fort Wayne Philharmonic musicians, the American Federation of Musicians, and Local 58 Fort Wayne Musicians Association have failed to respond to repeated requests to return to the bargaining table since Sept. 28 when the Philharmonic management negotiating team delivered its latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement. In addition, the Union continues to publish untruthful summaries of the Philharmonic’s position.

“Unfortunately, the musicians have ignored repeated requests to return the bargaining table during the last two months, and the delay is impeding the Philharmonic’s efforts to fulfill its mission to serve the public and at-risk children through arts performance and instruction,” said Board Chair Chuck Surack. “It’s time for the musicians to stop obstructing a fair resolution of these complex issues and return to the negotiations and get the new year off to a successful start.” 

Effects of Pandemic:  This situation occurs against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic and the operational disruptions reverberating throughout the country and through nonprofit organizations like the Philharmonic. Since mid-March the Philharmonic had been forced to cancel or reschedule dozens of concerts and events, including the entirety of its 2020-21 subscription season. In addition to concert cancellations, the Philharmonic staff size has been reduced and its musicians remain furloughed. The Philharmonic Board of Directors generously paid its full and part time musicians in full for nearly 5.5 months from mid-March while no performances were taking place, through Aug. 31, including a week of pay for “opt in” summer concerts that were cancelled.

The musicians also failed to respond to an Aug. 31 deadline for a slate of fall community performances that would have remunerated them approximately 70% of their pay for 50% work, including 99% of their health care, but in spite of the failure to reach an agreement, the Board once again generously committed to pay 99% of musician health care premiums through Dec. 31.

Work Offered, Work Denied:  Since Sept. 1, the Philharmonic negotiating team has offered several more avenues of employment to musicians, including pay for musician teachers to serve the Club Orchestra program for the Fort Wayne Community Schools and one-off projects. The last two offers for work were declined by the musicians’ representatives, who have not returned to the negotiating table since Sept. 28, 2020. The Philharmonic negotiating team remains ready and willing to return to the bargaining table in order to come to terms with the musicians’ union that are in favor of both parties.

Dec. 1 Board Meeting:  Out of concern for the welfare of its musicians, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Board of Directors voted yesterday to extend paying 99% of musician health insurance premiums through Jan. 31, 2021. After that time, musician health insurance will continue to be available at its previously contracted rate of 70% employer paid coverage, as stipulated in the expired and canceled collective bargaining agreement. The other 30% will be paid by each individual musician.

The Board learned at its meeting yesterday that the holiday concerts scheduled to take place on Dec. 5 have been canceled. The out-of-town guest musicians scheduled to perform asked to be relieved of their contracts because of requests from the Union that they not perform in Fort Wayne.

“Out of fairness to these wonderful, out-of-town guest artists, the Philharmonic is willing to release them from this contracted engagement,” said Managing Director James W. Palermo. “We hope they will be willing to return at another time, under more pleasant circumstances.”

Ensuring A Healthy Future:  To fulfill its mission, “To foster and instill a lifelong love of symphonic music through performance and education,” the Philharmonic must protect the institution’s future and financial stability. As an outgrowth of extreme financial pressures, including the projected loss of $1,000,000 in ticket sales, and an elderly patron base that appears unwilling and fearful to return to concerts in public venues, changes and adjustments need to be made now that will help create a more flexible and nimble organization that has the ability to navigate these difficult times and position the organization for a post COVID-19 return.

The Philharmonic’s previous proposal to the Union and Orchestra Committee included reducing the number of full-time musicians in order to allow the institution more flexibility to respond to the realities of the marketplace while expanding programs and performance opportunities, as needed. The reduction of the number of core members will in no way diminish the artistic quality of programs that the Philharmonic provides its audiences. Beethoven, Mozart and large-scale compositions will remain on the schedule, with additional musicians to be hired as needed to supplement the smaller, more flexible full-time core members.

As the Philharmonic navigates the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that it implement a more flexible operating system that will reduce financial pressures on the contributed and earned revenue required to operate. These new adjustments to the contractual needs of the organization will allow the Philharmonic to respond to a rapidly changing marketplace while focusing both on the short- and long-term needs of the organization. The Philharmonic remains optimistic that a new contract can be reached in the new year and the organization will continue its mission of bringing music to Northeast Indiana.