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Movement in Detroit: PS

0 Robert Levine

It’s understandable why the musicians might be wary in light of DSO management’s public statements regarding their new “offer”:

DSO officials said it would up the orchestra budget to $36 million, $2 million more in player pay and benefits than its late November offer.

But the offer is contingent on musicians accepting work rule changes that include the players engaging in more community and educational activities, whether tutoring or sending chamber ensembles out to churches or hospitals. It’s also contingent upon the DSO getting the funds.

DSO development director Paul Hogle said new funding may be available from unnamed groups interested in community and educational outreach. But those funders won’t commit unless they know the players are on board, he said.

“The Granholm/Levin framework envisioned $36 million and enhanced community and educational activities,” Hogle said. “The players agreed to that. So now the big ‘if’ is whether their offer was real.”

Not exactly. The musicians’ offer did not appear to be contingent on anything (although obviously the details, none of which I know, matter here). Management’s offer appears contingent on outside funding.

The real question is “how contingent?” Have the funders promised the funding if the musicians agree? If not, then it’s not really an offer. But it’s possible to understand how the funders might be a little wary of making binding commitments to either side in a labor dispute that’s turned this nasty.

I know that, in this situation, if I were on the negotiating committee I’d want to know just how certain it is that the funders will commit if “they know the players are on board.” If the DSO is anything like my orchestra, they’ve made concessions a few times over the years in exchange for commitments of additional funding that didn’t actually happen.

In fairness, in our case at least, no one viewed those commitments as legally binding. But the concessions most certainly were binding, and musicians will remember the promises and reassurances regarding the money that would flow in as a regard of their sacrifice far longer than they will the conditions and fine print surrounding those reassurances.

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