LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 6, 2012)… An official ruling today by the Division of Unemployment Insurance, Commonwealth of Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, upheld the Louisville Orchestra, Inc.’s position that the musicians of the Orchestra have, by law, been on strike since the moment they refused to return to work at the end of June. The appeal was filed on June 1. The result of this ruling is an immediate end of unemployment benefits paid to the players, and a demand, by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to those who accepted the benefits to repay them retroactively to the beginning of the strike.
Fifty five musicians, in total, filed for unemployment claims and were named individually in the appeal.
Following twelve months of negotiations, on May 28 the musicians and representatives of the musician’s union unanimously rejected all offers of employment made by the Louisville Orchestra and added that they would not agree under any circumstances to return to work without a contract. The Division of Unemployment Insurance’s ruling upheld the Orchestra’s assertion that such conditions are a refusal to work, and, by definition, constitute a strike.
The musicians, and their union (Local 11-637), have steadily denied that the musicians are on strike, claiming instead that they have been locked-out by management.
In preparing the Orchestra’s position, officials examined case law dating back to 1908. Orchestra CEO Robert Birman says that the accusation of a lock-out is simply not supported by the law. “A lock-out occurs when an employer refuses to furnish work,” said Birman. “We have continually offered our players work but they have refused us at every turn.”
“We have negotiated in good faith with our players and their union for more than a year for a sustainable labor agreement,” continued Birman. ““We regret that the musicians have been unwilling to work, but at a time of unprecedented stress on the state’s Unemployment Trust and with thousands of Kentuckians legitimately out of work, the Board and I renew our call for our musicians to return to work in their own interests and that of this community.”
Efforts to settle the labor impasse have continued since June, involving several mediators and the influence of the Mayor’s office, to no avail.
The Orchestra has been forced to cancel public concerts since July as a result of the musicians’ strike. The Orchestra made the strategic decision last spring to escrow all of its $360,000 in subscription ticket monies for the 2011-12 season. Patrons have received refunds for all cancelled performances.
To date, concerts have been cancelled through the beginning of March, 2012. The Orchestra’s board will meet in January to assess its options to salvage its series of spring concerts that were planned.