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Home » Officer Columns » Orchestra Board Should Feel Heat for Lockout

Orchestra Board Should Feel Heat for Lockout

  -  AFM International President

Below is the text of my speech given at a rally in downtown  Minneapolis on October 1, 2013, the one-year mark of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. You can see it at

We come together today to mark what happened exactly one year ago—the board of directors of the Minnesota Orchestra Association decided to use starvation as a weapon against defenseless orchestra musicians, locking them out, hoping to impose pay cuts of more than 30%, and regressive work rules that are unknown in the workplace of an orchestra of this stature. The day the lockout started, the Minnesota Orchestra was regarded as one of the greatest orchestras in the world.

The lockout also terminated the musicians’ healthcare—no more coverage for doctor visits, emergency care, or medicine that families need.

And while the board of directors has shown no remorse in inflicting the most severe pain imaginable on these great musicians, who have done nothing but bring joy to this community, that board brought shame upon itself, upon the Twin Cities, upon the state of Minnesota, and upon orchestra managements across the country. In their attempt to destroy the spirit and the means of living of an entire orchestra, the board destroyed itself, and the organization as an institution as well. No longer can these symphony board members refer to themselves as “responsible stewards of great artistry” in this community. It isn’t responsible stewardship when you starve and torture the men and women of the orchestra.

It doesn’t benefit the audience when the board raises $60 million to upgrade Orchestra Hall to a state-of-the-art facility, and then does irreparable injury and harm to the musicians who work there. The board calls that leadership and commitment. I call it economic terrorism by the rich big-shots who run this town, who shift the money from the pockets of those who do the work to those who manage—those who don’t know the difference between a banjo and a bass drum, who couldn’t do our job in a million years. It hurts workers in this community, and it affects all working people.

The board wants recognition for their efforts, so let’s give it to them. Here are some of the movers and shakers who have destroyed the lives of the musicians of the orchestra:

  • Jon R. Campbell—Director of community relations, Wells Fargo Bank. They received $25 billion in taxpayer bailouts/corporate welfare.
  • Richard K. Davis—President and CEO, US Bank, Minneapolis. They took $6.6 billion in taxpayer bailouts.
    Michael Henson—Manager of the orchestra. His salary was close to $400,000 last year and he is still raking it in, even while he is starving the musicians. What a hypocrite.
  • Patrick Bowe—Corporate vice president, Cargill. This international food company earned $2.3 billion on $136 billion in revenue last year, taking food out of the mouths of musicians and their families.
  • Emily Backstrom—Finance director, General Mills. The biggest food producer in the world, but musicians must go hungry unless ultimatums are agreed to. By the way, if you have questions about General Mills stock, the company refers you to Wells Fargo Bank.
  • Mark Copman—Vice president, 3M Company. A company with net income of $4.3 billion on revenue of $30 billion.
  • Ben Fowke—CEO of Xcel Energy. Net income of $1 billion on $10 billion. They think it’s cute to shut the lights off on professional musicians.
  • Karen Himle—Home Federal Savings Bank. Karen, do you like watching musicians having their homes foreclosed?
  • Nancy Jaimeson—Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra. Nancy, what a misnomer.
  • Chris Policinski—Head of Land O’ Lakes Dairy, producing 12 million pounds of milk annually, a company worth $1 billion, now milking musicians and their families.
  • David Wichmann—CEO of United Health Group. The company earned $5 billion on revenue of $100 billion last year. Health care rose 131% over the last 10 years, while inflation rose only 28%. When we get sick, they profit, and here in Minneapolis, they are zeroing in on orchestra musicians, depriving them of health care.
  • And don’t forget Michael Klingensmith—CEO of the Minnesota Star Tribune, who told the musicians to dump their out-of-town lawyer so that Minnesotans can solve their own problems.

Does this sound like a board with no money that needs to starve musicians into poverty? Or does it sound like a bunch of bullies who have chosen talented musicians to suffer, while they themselves are economically unaffected and feel no pain, who want to apply their punishment out of sight, hoping no one will see, hoping no one will care? These are some of the richest people and richest companies in the world. This town can afford to treat musicians with the dignity and respect they deserve. There’s enough money in this town to do that, and the whole world is watching.

Today, after a year of this mess, it is not enough to talk about it. We need to do something about it. No more groveling to the union-busters. There should be blowback on this irresponsible board and the companies they represent. These people and their companies are not worthy of our business.

What we need is a boycott of Wells Fargo Bank; US Bank; 3M Company; the Star Tribune—cancel those subscriptions; United Health Care—change your health carrier; General Mills—no more Jolly Green Giant; Land O’ Lakes—let’s butter someone else’s bread; and Xcel Energy – change your power company. You know there has to be a power company around here that has a CEO who doesn’t support the abuse of professional musicians.

But I can’t do this alone. We are stronger if we act together. We can’t stand on the sidelines anymore. As trade unionists, as music lovers, as workers, and as ordinary citizens standing together, we have the power to stop, not only what is happening to musicians in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but also what is happening to working people across this country, and let today be the first day of our campaign to restore truth and dignity to Minneapolis musicians and stop this terrible attack on working people.

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