Peduto, Fitzgerald trying to mediate symphony strike
October 25, 2016 12:29 AM
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians picket outside of Heinz Hall on Monday. "People are very supportive, they understand what our goals are," said French horn player Stephen Kostyniak, center left, 42, of Highland Park, who is now in his eleventh year with the symphony. "We're committed to do whatever we have to do to make sure the orchestra is not destroyed."
PSO cellists Bronwyn Banerdt, second from right, and Charlie Powers, right, of the Strip District, hold picket signs Monday as they talk to arts supporters Kim Webb, left, and Maria Shoop, both of Aspinwall, outside of Heinz Hall, Downtown.
By Elizabeth Bloom and Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Politics can divide people more than unify them, but in the case of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing labor dispute, the city’s top elected officials hope to bridge the gap.
Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will meet with PSO management and musicians this week in an effort to mediate the bruising labor dispute at Heinz Hall.
“Right now, it’s how do we get everyone back,” Mr. Peduto said, “and sometimes you need to have somebody who listens to each side and communicates.”
Representatives of the musicians, who have been on strike since Sept. 30, will meet with the mayor and county executive on Wednesday, bassist and orchestra committee chairman Micah Howard said.
“The fact that our mayor and the county executive both have enough interest to want to meet with us shows they want to help us find a solution, and it’d be great if they could help us do that,” Mr. Howard said.
Members of symphony management will meet with Mr. Peduto and Mr. Fitzgerald on Thursday, symphony president and CEO Melia Tourangeau said. Besides herself and the two politicians, longtime symphony patron Dick Simmons, board chairman Devin McGranahan, board member Benno Bernt and Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant were invited to the meeting, Ms. Tourangeau said.
The elected officials are ex officio members of the symphony board. Ms. Tourangeau has not spoken to the mayor since the musicians went on strike, but two Fridays ago she crossed paths with Mr. Fitzgerald at an event.
She last met with the officials in August, when she was preparing to testify in front of the Allegheny Regional Asset District board. At the time, the musicians and management were in the midst of the tense contract discussions that would ultimately prove unsuccessful.
“At that time, the mayor said, ‘Well, if there is a work stoppage, and you need me and Rich to come in and facilitate something, we’d be happy to do so,’ ” Ms. Tourangeau said.
The musicians met with Mr. Peduto before the strike, and Mr. Howard has spoken with him since then, but the musicians have not formally gotten together with the mayor or county executive since the work stoppage began.
“There’s certainly a large difference of opinion,” Mr. Peduto said, “but I think that if the union is willing to make some concessions, at least in the areas of benefits, and the administration is willing to understand the issues such as the size and the salary are the primary issues … both sides might be able to give a little and we can get to a compromise.”
The elected leaders are not the only ones hoping to help thaw the icy relations between the musicians and administration.
For the first time since the strike began, the two sides plan to meet with federal mediators on Friday and Saturday in an effort to resolve the dispute. They also have agreed to hire an outside expert, paid for by both parties, who will conduct an independent analysis of the organization’s finances.
“I'm happy that they’re going back to the table,” Mr. Peduto said. “I'm happy that they’re going to be working off one set of numbers. But it’s also going to take a little bit from both sides. If I can help in that way, I certainly want to be able to.”
Last week, the Post-Gazette issued a Right-to-Know request to obtain the mayor’s correspondence with PSO representatives. Mr. Peduto said in an interview that he would not be able to fulfill that request.
“I am not able to provide it,” he said of the correspondence, “because it does go into details on both sides of what they were saying to me, and that’s on faith. If I were to release that, there would never be a time anybody would come to ask for help.”
Elizabeth Bloom: email@example.com, 412-263-1750 and Twitter: @BloomPG. Adam Smeltz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2625 and Twitter: @asmeltz.
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