Kennedy Center backs down on health care

Kennedy Center backs down on health care


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2020

Having told the musicians they wont be covered past May, Deborah Rutter realised it’s illegal.

Here’s the latest from the musicians:

Washington, DC—Today, the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra released a statement firing back at Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter’s decision to furlough the musicians, making their last paycheck April 3rd. Rutter also threatened to take away the healthcare of the musicians past May. The announcement comes on the heels of the news that the Kennedy Center would receive a $25 million grant as part of the coronavirus stimulus package.

On Tuesday, the musicians sent a legal letter to Kennedy Center management, challenging the legality of the decision to furlough them. The letter notes in part:

“In particular, we write to respond to the Kennedy Center’s position, as expressed on our call yesterday, that it unilaterally can “suspend” the parties’ entire collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) because of “exigent circumstances” on one week’s notice. That position is baseless.”

Said Steve Wilson, bassoonist and Co-Chair of the Orchestra Committee:

“On the same day that President Trump signed the stimulus package that would send $25 million to the Kennedy Center for, among other expenses, employee compensation, Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter illegally decided to stop paying us, and refused to promise to continue our healthcare past May. 

“We were glad to learn yesterday that the Center has now decided that it will cover ‘full healthcare benefits for all furloughed employees.’ But it is unfortunate that Rutter and Kennedy Center management have opted to violate our contract and federal labor law rather than come to us to discuss a collective solution.



  • Couperin says:

    Hopefully it’s not an April Fool joke!

  • David A, Boxwell says:

    The writing is on the wall: when the KC returns to life, and it will, she will have to go.

  • Jstrizzle says:

    The way this whole thing went down, the lack of communication, the surprise “you’re fired” is union busting plain and simple.

  • Karl says:

    Deborah Rutter must have been an affirmative action hire. This is what identity politics gets you.

  • Jstrizzle says:

    Also, note that it says, “full healthcare benefits for furloughed EMPLOYEES…”
    NSO musicians are not technically referred to as employees of the Kennedy center. So…who knows.

  • fflambeau says:


  • Guest20 says:

    And now a bill has been introduced to rescind the $25 million because of the way KC mistreated its musicians:

    • Stephen Owades says:

      I’m sure Mr Steil, a conservative Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, would oppose any grant to the Kennedy Center (which receives Federal funds because of its status as a National monument) under any circumstances. I don’t believe he’s acting out of any concern for the musicians.

  • All Cards on the Table says:

    Deborah Rutter is a disgrace as a “leader”. It is in difficult times that a leader shows what they are truly made of. The fact that she took such rash and harmful decisions without discussing this with the musicians or even verifying the legality of her slash-and-burn policy of shutting down the NSO with legal advisors shows gross incompetence and, most disturbingly, a VERY cold heart. These overpaid bean counters are not made for the current and future challenges that will face orchestras and cultural institutions. Hopefully she will have the instinct to resign or if that is not forthcoming she needs to be removed from her position as soon as possible. The rebuilding of an arts institution like the Kennedy Center requires intelligence, communication, strategy and humanity. Deborah Rutter clearly lacks these qualities and should be removed as soon as possible. The Kennedy Center requires a modern thinker to solve this problem, not an overpaid barbarian.

    • Fred Funk says:

      She has an MBA from USC. So she’s had several levels of education in business, non-profit laws, and the governance issues associated with them. She’s in an unpaid status, caught attempting to perpetuate a series of frauds via the wire/postal services. If there’s any moral hazard/turpitude clauses in her employment contract, just collect her ID and access cards. The Union should be expressing this in writing, along with assisting members to file unemployment claims on Monday.