Chairperson Kahn and members of the Committee, my name is Carole Mason Smith. I am a musician with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Chair of the Musicians Negotiating Committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. This is the second time in the past month I’ve sat before state lawmakers to discuss the impact the lockout is having on our lives, our loyal audiences and our community.
With 30 years of experience with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, I’m used to performing. But, frankly, this is an unfamiliar stage. I’m not completely comfortable in front of you, but I am convinced that it’s critical I’m here today – you need to hear about our labor problems and their impact, particularly because our ensemble is supported by the state and funded – in part – by the Legacy Amendment.
First, the Musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are very grateful for your interest in the current challenges we face. We are hopeful that just being here today will help raise awareness and help us get back to work – get back to doing what we love…and that is playing world-class orchestral music for Minnesotans.
Over the years, we have had our share of contract challenges with Management, but, working collaboratively, we were always able to overcome our differences. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.
We are sad. We are disappointed. And we are frustrated by the negotiations. In addition to giving back more than $2 million in salary concessions over the last 10 years, we have made several concessionary offers, including our latest, our fourth proposal, delivered to our Management on January 22nd.
Our proposal provides substantial savings through 2016, through salary and musician cuts. Had Management agreed to our proposal, we estimate we could have saved $4.6 million over the next 3 years, which includes $1.2 million saved by this lockout. Instead of seriously considering our proposal, they have ignored it. And in fact this interim management’s proposal has not substantially changed since Sept 7, 2012.
Their response is to continue to cancel concerts, decreasing their costs and increasing the damage done to musicians and their families.
$440,734 in Legacy Amendment funds were allocated to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra with the intent to support the organizational goals and objections. Those goals and objectives are expressed in the mission of the SPCO-“To present a world-class professional chamber orchestra in the Twin Cities, dedicated to superior performance, artistic innovation, and education, for the enrichment of community and world audiences.” For the past 4 months this organization has presented no chamber orchestra concerts, no superior performance, no innovation, no education and no enrichment whatsoever for this community.
Meanwhile 3 dozen professional musicians deal with the harsh realities of a lockout. We have agreed to play more concerts and be paid less money, but that is not enough. Management wants to cut more.
As of today, we have been locked out for 113 days. During that time, we have spent many hours in the State of Minnesota’s unemployment offices. We have spent a great deal of time looking for new jobs AND even for new careers. Several of us are no longer working as professional musicians and some of us have sold our homes and moved out of the community we love.
I speak for all Musicians when I say we want to be part of the solution. We want our management to end this lockout while we continue to talk through contract differences.
Finally, we want to quickly return to a stage we’re all comfortable on – one where we make music for our loyal audiences rather than make noise for our elected leaders.
Thank you, again, for your time and this opportunity.