Labor Crisis Led to Demise of Eos Orchestra

Classic Arts News   Labor Crisis Led to Demise of Eos Orchestra
New York's Eos Orchestra shut down in December because of differences between orchestra management and newly unionized musicians, according to reports on the web site Musical America and the web site of Local 802, the New York musicians' union.

When Eos announced that it was shutting down, a representative explained in a statement that the group had "successfully conclude[d] its mission." Later, artistic director Jonathan Sheffer told the New York Times that fiscal problems were the main cause of the group's demise.

But more recently, Sheffer told Musical America that the union's demands prompted the group to shut down.

"The issue for the players was job security and the issue for Eos was artistic freedom and those two things really came into conflict," Sheffer said. "The players union made certain demands of us artistically that we couldn't live up to. Our lawyers made the recommendation that [we] couldn't continue."

According an article in Local 802's online newsletter, freelance musicians who played regularly with the ten-year-old group asked the union to represent them in March 2004, because they were concerned about the security of their positions. Initial negotiations were "cordial," the union said, but in August, when Eos offered work for the season, some musicians who had performed regularly for the previous three years were offered less work, and others were offered none at all.

The union suggests that the offers were, in essence, punishment for musicians who attemped to unionize. "It was the union's contention that the reduced or non-offers of work for the season were the result of the group having designated the union as its representative," reads the article.

Subsequent talks, according to the union, did not resolve this issue. On December 15, a scheduled meeting was canceled; two days later, the orchestra announced that it was shutting down.

According to the newsletter article, the union is "following [Sheffer's] activities" to ensure that there is "no resumption of activities under a different name with different musicians."

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