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Union Leaders Rally For Orchestra Musicians

Dozens of union members rallied this morning in front of the Fund for the Arts offices in support of the Louisville Orchestra musicians.

Orchestra players and management have been embroiled in a contract dispute for more than a year, and musicians have been idle since their last contract expired in May.

Leaders of the AFL-CIO, firefighters’ union, the UAW and others say they’re upset with the management’s plans to hire replacement musicians if an agreement cannot be reached. They’re also upset with the Kentucky Opera for bringing on replacements for its upcoming performances.

The unions are urging their rank and file to withhold donations to the Fund for the Arts, which allocated $1.3 million to the orchestra in fiscal 2010, until the dispute is resolved.

“We have one of the leading orchestras in the country here and I for one don’t want to see us lose it. We’ll be there with whatever we need to do to make sure they prevail, we will do it,” said Charles Clephas, vice-president of the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council.

The unions also endorsed a report prepared by attorney Henry Fogel that calls on the Fund for the Arts and Mayor Fischer to convene a blue-ribbon panel to study the orchestra contract dispute and make recommendations to end the impasse. Fischer previously volunteered his chief of staff to lead talks between the two sides, but no agreement was reached.

Fund for the Arts Interim President Barbara Sexton Smith says the fund welcomes input from the unions and shares their desire for a resolution to the dispute.
(Photo by Amanda Donhoff)

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Orchestra Musicians Stage Protest

Some members of the Louisville Orchestra’s musicians union are staging a protest at the orchestra’s headquarters this afternoon as their contract impasse continues.

The musicians had already said they would reject management’s latest contract offer. They had until today to consider a proposal that outlines specific expectations for rehearsal and performance attendance.

The orchestra has filed for Chapter 11 bankuptcy and wants to cut the number of annual performances and musicians to save money. The musicians’ union opposes the changes and says the orchestra can find ways to raise enough money to continue at its current strength.

A statement from the orchestra says the two sides have agreed to continue meeting with a federal mediator, although some musicians told WFPL today that they don’t want to continue those talks without the presence of an industry expert.