A letter from our dearest friends, Ken and Carolyn Meltzer. There aren't enough thank-you's for these two ATL Symphony Musician supporters.Our letter to Virginia Hepner, sent yesterday:
Carolyn and I are writing to you as long-time contributors to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Over the past several years, we have contributed at the Appassionato level. Over the past three years, we have contributed approximately half of Ken’s ASO salary back to the Orchestra.
We were distressed to hear of the inability of the parties to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the midnight September 6 deadline. We were even more distressed to learn that this failure has resulted in a lockout of the ASO Musicians—the second lockout in two years.
A lockout is a drastic step, resulting in the suspension of employee compensation and, potentially, health care coverage. It is a step that should be taken only when the previous Agreement is unsustainable, and could put the Orchestra and the WAC in severe financial peril. That was the argument made two years ago when the Musicians were locked out for the first time.
Following that lockout, a new Agreement was reached, in which the Musicians made unprecedented concessions. After the Agreement was signed, Board Chair Jim Abrahamson issued the following statement: “These are difficult and unfortunate economic realities we face, however, with this new agreement I am confident we can have the strong future we all desire.” You added the following: “I am proud of all the people involved to reach a conclusion. I know it was a challenge, but it was critically important for survival and our ability to thrive. You never want to put anyone through that type of stress without reason.”
Over the past two years, the Musicians have fulfilled all of their obligations under the Agreement. During that same period, the economy steadily improved. Nevertheless, the WAC now takes the position that the previous Agreement (the same one that was heralded as bringing financial stability to the Orchestra) is so unsustainable that the Musicians must again be locked out.
The WAC assures us that, while the previous Agreement was unsustainable, the new one, requiring more concessions from the Musicians, will bring economic stability. We are at a loss to see how this position will have any credibility with the public at large, and donors in particular, given the events of the past two years. Further, a second lockout in two years of the same Musicians who have fulfilled the terms of Agreements the WAC approved, suggests a complete lack of respect for them, and for members of the public who treasure their music-making.
We urge the WAC to reconsider the decision to impose this second lockout. We believe that the long-term consequences of such a severe, insensitive action will have devastating effects upon the future of the Atlanta Symphony as a world-class Orchestra.
Ken and Carolyn Meltzer