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Federal Complaint Says Hartford Symphony Orchestra Failed to Negotiate With Union

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Ryan Caron King
/
WNPR
Musicians perform at Blue Back Square in West Hartford to raise awareness of ongoing contract negotiations.
The NLRB complaint says that HSO management has "been failing and refusing to bargain collectively in good faith."

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for failing to come to the bargaining table to hammer out a new contract with the orchestra's musicians.

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Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
Musicians of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra at Blue Back Square in West Hartford on Friday promote their rally at the Capitol.

The complaint, filed August 28 by NLRB Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, accuses HSO management of unilaterally changing the terms of the current contract by failing to offer individual musicians of the HSO contracts and schedules for the upcoming season by a May 1 deadline. The musicians did not agree to a change in the deadline.

The NLRB complaint says that HSO management has "been failing and refusing to bargain collectively in good faith" with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) local 400, which represents the musicians. The NLRB requires the HSO to respond to the complaints no later than Friday, September 11. HSO management will also have a chance to respond to the complaints and call witnesses before an administrative law judge of the NLRB at a hearing November 10 in Hartford.

Hartford Symphony musicians and management have been at odds over a new contract. The current proposal would cut the number of guaranteed performances and rehearsals next season by about 40 percent for core musicians of the orchestra, dropping their yearly salary from a little over $23,000 to below $15,000.

Musicians would also have to available for daytime rehearsals and performances, which would be a hardship for many musicians who have day jobs. AFM is looking for a better deal. Contract negotiations are scheduled this week in Hartford.

Some musicians performed in a series of pop-up concerts in Hartford and West Hartford to raise awareness of their ongoing contract fight. Watch part of one pop-up concert at Blue Back Square in West Hartford below. 

Last year, the HSO and the Bushnell entered into a services contract agreement, which folded in many of the HSO administrative duties into the Bushnell's, and made David Fay president and CEO of both organizations. Many had hoped the partnership would stabilize the HSO's finances, but many musicians say balancing the books on the backs of musicians salaries is an indication that the partnership isn't working.

The HSO can opt out of the partnership next year, according to the terms of the agreement. In a statement, David Fay said "The Hartford Symphony Orchestra continues to negotiate in good faith with the American Federation of Musicians in the hope of securing a new contract. We look forward to working constructively with the union to resolve all remaining contract issues in the very near future."

The impasse between HSO management and the musicians is garnering national attention. AFM President Ray Hair, along with national leaders of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians and the Regional Orchestra Players Association spoke at a rally Wednesday on the north steps of the Capitol, organized by HSO musicians.

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