PSO management: Letter to musicians about temporary workers was legal formality
October 5, 2016 1:39 PM
Penny Brill of Aspinwall carries her viola on her back Friday as she walks the picket line in front of Heinz Hall. Penny has been with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 1980.
By Elizabeth Bloom / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has told its musicians that it “has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open” and may “hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity we face.”
But COO Christian Schornich, who sent the letter to the orchestra players on strike, said that statement is simply a legal formality in the case of a strike and that the organization has “no intention” of hiring replacement musicians to play orchestra concerts.
The management’s legal counsel wrote the letter in response to the musicians’ strike, which began Friday, Mr. Schornich said in an interview. The letter is intended to clarify to the employees on strike that their compensation and benefits ended on Sept. 30 and they are eligible to continue healthcare through COBRA.
“I don’t want to even go there,” Mr. Schornich said, referring to the possibility of hiring an orchestra of non-PSO musicians. “There’s no intention behind this.”
Mr. Schornich sent the letter on behalf of Pittsburgh Symphony Inc., or PSI, to orchestra committee chairman Micah Howard on Tuesday.
“We’re not surprised by Schornich’s letter, as it sums up PSI management’s attitude towards the musicians perfectly: We are ‘workers’ who can easily be ‘replaced’ if PSI management doesn’t get what it wants,” Mr. Howard said in a statement. “Clearly, PSI management does not understand what the Pittsburgh Symphony truly is. If they did, they would not take such a callous and demeaning approach.”
It seems unlikely that management would even be able to hire a replacement orchestra, especially because the American Federation of Musicians fines unionized musicians who cross the picket line.
The letter was first reported by the classical music blog Slipped Disc.
Elizabeth Bloom: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1750 and Twitter: @BloomPG.
Here’s the two-page letter sent Tuesday by COO Christopher Schornich to orchestra committee chairman Micah Howard:
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