Musicians' Union Files Charges Against Pasadena Symphony Over Proposed Merger

Classic Arts News   Musicians' Union Files Charges Against Pasadena Symphony Over Proposed Merger
Professional Musicians' Local 47 has filed charges of unfair labor practices and injustices against the Pasadena Symphony, The Los Angeles Times reports. The charges were in reaction to an announcement made by the Pasadena Symphony Association on June 18 that the Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena POPS Orchestra would merge, dissolving the latter ensemble.

With a structure modeled after the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops, the Pasadena Symphony Association would become one board of directors operating one orchestra with two directors, effective October 1. Also planned is an expansion of merged organization's education and community outreach programs, assisted by the combined budgets of the Pasadena Symphony and the Pops (currently at $2.1 million and $2.3 million, respectively).

"This is the right time to come together to share resources," the Pasadena Independent reported Harvey Knell, current president of the POPS board, saying.

The June 18 announcement stated that the Association would act as an umbrella organization, presenting the Symphony's winter season under director Jorge Mester and the POPS' summer season under Rachel Worby. Worby's orchestra would also become the Pasadena Pops Symphony, with the majority of the Pops' current roster being let go.

"I was attracted to [the merger] when I learned both music directors and both programs would be retained, but I only learned about some disproportion in impact today," said Pasadena mayor Bill Bogaard in the Pasadena Weekly.

Local 47 says it was not aware of plans for the consolidation. Hal Espinosa, the union's president, said he learned at a May 21 meeting with Pasadena Symphony representatives that the orchestra was "exploring" a possible acquisition of the POPS' assets, and that he was assured negotiations regarding the effect the merger would have on musicians of both ensembles would take place.

Espinosa stated that no bargaining took place prior to the Association's decision. The master agreement the union has with the Symphony, he said, requires the orchestra to bargain with it before putting into effect new terms of employment for its musicians or those of the POPS. He also submitted a written demand that the POPS start bargaining with the union immediately over the planned dissolution.

"[The dismissal of musicians] is a decision that has to be made, a difficult one," commented Pasadena Symphony executive director Tom O'Connor in the Pasadena Weekly.

"It's not often that one orchestra combines with another, but we had good counsel, and everything that has been said by the union has been expected," the Times quotes O'Connor as saying. He said he had plans to talk with Espinosa yesterday about scheduling meetings between the union and the POPS' management. "We will [then] resolve these issues amicably," added O'Connor.

According to the Times, POPS musicians have filed over 30 grievances against management for groundless removal or demotion of musicians, or for failing to follow protocol during such actions. Though 30 might be a stretch, said Espinosa, "I've probably filed more grievances against the Pasadena POPS management than against all the other employers put together."

Said Worby of the merger in the La Caê±ada Valley Sun, "it will provide our community with a platform from which to say to people far and wide that Pasadena cares about music."

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