Bad stuff in Phoenix

A long blog post at the Phoenix New Times goes into detail about allegations of age discrimination, anti-union activity, and general nastiness by the Phoenix Symphony management and Music Director Michael Christie. This has led to a complaint filed against the Phoenix Symphony by the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board:

The complaint charges that the symphony has been discriminating against its employees, punishing them, demoting them, and sometimes firing them because they have come to each others’ defense, spoken out, and/or have made complaints against the symphony to the EEOC.

The NLRB has issued a hearing date for the case of April 27 before an administrative law judge, and the agency has suggested a remedy, which would include hiring back the dismissed musicians and paying their back pay with interest. (So far, the symphony has indicated they will not accept the proposed settlement.) But the NLRB is also considering another legal remedy, seeking injunctive relief in federal district court to halt the symphony’s alleged unfair labor practices.

Currently, the NLRB’s regional director Cornele Overstreet says that the move is awaiting the approval of the Board itself and NLRB’s general counsel. If he receives the green light, he could then go before a federal judge to petition for an injunction ordering the symphony to reinstate the fired musicians while the case is adjudicated. Otherwise, there would be the possibility of “irreparable harm.”

The complaint can be downloaded here.

This is actually pretty remarkable; the NLRB seldom issues such complaints, and very seldom (at least in recent years) against an orchestra. Apparently the musicians at the Grand Teton Music Festival wrote a letter protesting management’s actions and sent it to the Phoenix Symphony; that can be downloaded here.

At the end of the article, the blogger reported a conversation he’d had with Doc Severinsen, former Pops conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, about one of the terminated musicians, principal cellist Richard Bock:

…the former Tonight Show bandleader stuck up for the playing of his longtime friend and colleague.

“I was sorry to hear it, and surprised,” commented Severinsen. “He’s an excellent player. I can’t imagine that he did anything musically that would have caused him to be fired. Otherwise, why would he have been here in the first place? Unless his playing went downhill, and I never heard that happen.”

I worked for Doc here in Milwaukee, and always thought he was a really good guy. I’m glad to see that confirmed.


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