NLRB happens

In a nice example of synchronicity, the Jacksonville Symphony musicians, with the assistance of their counsel, Liza Medina, proved my point about the dangers of an employer declaring impasse within hours of my having written this post last week by winning a ruling from the NLRB on the subject:

There is enough evidence of unfair labor practices by the Jacksonville Symphony Association to take the musicians’ union’s complaint before an administrative law judge, the National Labor Relations Board has decided.

The union received an email Thursday from the NLRB’s Tampa office that said “the Region found violations on the following allegations: premature declaration of impasse and implementation of its last offer, surface bargaining, and the information requests.”

In a news release issued Friday morning, the symphony association said, “It is important to understand that this complaint merely makes allegations based on charges filed by the union.”

But the NLRB, which sent an investigator to Jacksonville to interview representatives of the symphony association and the union, could have declined to take the complaint to an administrative law judge. Once the administrative law judge holds hearings and issues a ruling, that ruling can still be appealed to the NLRB and then in federal court.

This is a big victory for the musicians, and a very unusual one. It’s very hard to get the NLRB to charge an employer on these bases, and regardless of the bluster from management, is seriously bad news for them. (It is not true, by the way, that the “complaint merely makes allegations based on charges filed by the union.” The NLRB investigates before making charges like this, as the article made clear.)

How seriously bad? According to this article on a management-side labor law blog,

A reversal by the NLRB of illegal unilateral changes means that the employer must repay the cost of the changes to employees, which often leaves the employer in a worse position.

It sure would in this case, as the implemented proposal cut musician wages by around 20%. The real impact of this development, though, is to increase pressure on management to negotiate, as the surest way of making these charges – and their potential financial impact – go away is to get the union to drop them as part of a package settlement. Or, in other words, management’s Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement just got a lot worse.


About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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