Things just keep getting tougher for the orchestra across the water. The Seattle Times reports today that the Bellevue Philharmonic canceled its final Masterworks concert, scheduled for next month. Executive Director Jennifer McCausland says they made the decision to cancel, feeling they couldn't recoup the expenses of putting on the performances. Smaller recitals scheduled for the Bellevue Art Museum will continue as planned.
The decision to cancel follows on the heels of an ongoing labor dispute that began last fall. The musicians want to organize as a union for bargaining purposes, but McCausland, with the backing of the board, hasn't been willing to recognize them.
Principal clarinet Mary Kantor is quick to say she doesn't believe the musicians' labor fight with management is at fault for the organization's suffering budget. Kantor does, however, blame McCausland, saying she hasn't done enough to promote the Philharmonic. "I think the audiences are there, but there's no advertising." An earlier holiday concert was canceled after meager ticket sales.
That wasn't the problem this time around, according to McCausland.
She says the ticket sales were fine, but some of the big foundations that used to support the group have pulled out due to the economic climate. "Our situation is not at all unique, everybody else is in exactly the same position," McCausland says. "The entire performing arts of the United States is hoping that the economy will stabilize."
As to the labor issues, Motter Snell president of the local affiliate of the American Federation of Musicians, the union Philharmonic players are hoping to join, says it's on hold. The National Labor Relations Board won't force a vote on joining a union for an organization as small as the Philharmonic, she explains. The National Labor Relations Act doesn't cover musical ensembles with budgets under $1 million. So there's really nothing the players can do if the management won't voluntarily recognize them short of going on strike, which the musicians don't plan to do.
Snell is in Olympia today pushing for a bill that would give the state Public Employment Relations Commission oversight over local unions and the ability to step in with smaller organizations and potentially force a vote on union membership. "The situation at the Bellevue Philharmonic would be a perfect example of why we need this law," Snell says. The bill, HB 1276, introduced by Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) is waiting on a house floor vote.