More weirdness in Madison

The management of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has given its musicians a “last, best, and final offer”:

Doug Gerhart, executive director of the orchestra, said management is trying to be “as fair and reasonable as possible” with the latest contract.

Musicians disagree, saying they’re being punished with a lesser contract for exercising their right to strike…

[Bassoonist Todd] Jelen argues that musicians should not have to agree to fewer services without full knowledge of the orchestra’s finances.

“They haven’t opened their books,” he said. “I can’t see how they would even fathom we’d take concessions without doing that.”

This story just gets stranger and stranger. As I wrote earlier, it looks like management is already engaged in regressive bargaining. And now they’re refusing to provide financial information?

It’s not true that the union is always entitled to such information. But when an employer is, in the legal term of art, “pleading poverty,” my understanding was that the employer was required to provide whatever financial information was requested, subject to certain confidentiality restrictions. And, of course, if the management really wanted the concessions, wouldn’t they help the musicians try to understand why they were necessary by providing whatever information was provided? Of course, that assumes that the concessions were necessary and not intended to punish the musicians for having the temerity to actually bargain.

Is there an award for most unfair labor practices in a single orchestra negotiation? It must be one hell of an award to cause a management to behave like this.


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