We don’t have details yet from both sides but it looks like Deborah Rutter has made a humiliating climbdown in her bid to dismiss the orchestra during the virus crisis. The musicians are now demanding the reinstatement of sacked members of staff.
Here’s what the musicians have just told us:
The Musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra are pleased that a settlement has been reached to resolve the grievance filed by our union challenging the Kennedy Center’s decision to furlough musicians beginning this week. That action was not permitted under our collective bargaining agreement and, under the settlement, musicians will not be furloughed. In recognition of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kennedy Center, however, we have agreed to modify our collective bargaining agreement to make substantial economic concessions. Our agreement also will be extended for an additional year, through the beginning of September 2024. This will provide financial stability to our musicians during this difficult time.
We are grateful to have a collective bargaining agreement and a union—the D.C. Federation of Musicians, AFM Local 161-710—to protect us. Not all Kennedy Center staff are so fortunate. We urge the Kennedy Center to bring back the Orchestra’s staff as a matter of fairness and so that our venture can flourish. We need their talents to help start new musical projects to present to our patrons and the larger world. The musicians of the National Symphony are pledging at least $50,000 of our own money over the next 10 weeks to help support our NSO staff colleagues. While it is not enough to make them whole, we hope that it helps materially as well as demonstrating our respect and admiration for them.
Throughout this process, the NSO musicians, as always, have been willing to work with management to try to find creative solutions to difficult problems.
UPDATE: Here’s the house version from Ms Rutter’s office:
After several days of collaborative discussions, Kennedy Center leadership and the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) have reached a new agreement, a significant step in stabilizing the institution as it faces financial challenges resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The NSO musicians have agreed to a restructure of their current contract resulting in payroll savings of nearly 35% (over $2.5 million) through early September, as well as further savings realized through a wage freeze in the 2020-2021 season and delayed wage increases for the duration of the contract. Combined, these financial sacrifices total approximately $4 million and represent a substantial long-term investment in the Kennedy Center’s future. NSO musicians and NSO management have also agreed to form a joint working group to discuss alternative ways to share new and archived NSO content during the current pandemic closure.
This recent agreement with the NSO musicians, along with previously announced administrative staff furloughs and pay reductions through May 10 and critical $25 million from the CARES Act funding, are key measures in a multi-pronged plan designed to ensure the Kennedy Center will be able to re-open its doors and stages, re-employ its artistic and administrative staff, and secure the Center long into the future. The Kennedy Center has committed to covering full healthcare benefits for all its furloughed employees during this time. The Kennedy Center closed its doors on March 13 and will remain closed until at least May 10 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an unprecedented time for all of us here in D.C. and around the world,” stated Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “The severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have unfolded at an incredibly rapid pace, requiring all of us to work together and demanding the highest levels of strategic and creative thinking to solve our problems in the long-term. We are grateful to the musicians of the NSO for partnering with us and that, together, we have found a way forward.”