St. Louis Symphony Management and Union Joust Over Legality of Work Stoppage

Classic Arts News   St. Louis Symphony Management and Union Joust Over Legality of Work Stoppage
St. Louis Symphony president Randy Adams says that the orchestra's musicians are engaged in an illegal strike, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

According to the Adams, the union failed to file a form with the National Labor Relations Board saying that it had initiated contract talks in June 2004. If a union does not file the form, its members can technically be fired.

Leonard Leibowitz, a lawyer for the musicians, acknowledged that the union did not file the form. "Technically speaking, it's true," he told the paper, but "it's meaningless in a number of respects."

Musicians say that the stoppage is a lockout, not a strike, Leibowitz pointed out. In addition, he said, "the reality of life is that you can't pick up and hire another symphony orchestra," he said.

The two sides have not been able to agree on a third party to mediate talks, and Adams suggested that the failure of the union to file the form was one reason. "This illegal strike situation may be complicating what kind of mediation we'll be looking at."

At one point, musicians proposed former SLSO executive director Peter Pastreich as a mediator; management said he was too close to Leibowitz. A Republican member of the Missouri state senate is reportedly another possibility, but, Adams told the Post-Dispatch, the unnamed senator "never made a formal offer."

St. Louis mayor Francis Slay has shown no willingness to intervene, despite a Post-Dispatch editorial calling for him to do so. Philadelphia mayor John Street was a pivotal figure in talks at the Philadelphia Orchestra last year, and is widely credited with preventing a strike.

Despite the lack of movement, Adams told the Post-Dispatch that he expected the strike to be settled before the orchestra's scheduled performance at Carnegie Hall in April 16.

"I still have enormous respect for the musicians," he said, "and I think we can work this out."

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