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An ISO lockout dictionary


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ISO musicians — from left: Lisa Scott, Jayna Park and David Bellman — perform Tuesday on the sidewalk in front of Hilbert Circle Theatre. The musicians were locked out of their place of work Sept. 8 following the failure of ISO musicians and management to reach a contract agreement. - ANGELA LEISURE
  • Angela Leisure
  • ISO musicians — from left: Lisa Scott, Jayna Park and David Bellman — perform Tuesday on the sidewalk in front of Hilbert Circle Theatre. The musicians were locked out of their place of work Sept. 8 following the failure of ISO musicians and management to reach a contract agreement.

The withholding of work from employees and closing down of a workplace by an employer during a labor dispute. (American Heritage)

It's a lockout, even if Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra management isn't referring to it as such. Following the collapse of negotiations over the weekend, management cancelled the first two weeks of its season, including this weekend's classical opener featuring newly minted Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski and next weekend's pops opener featuring Ensemble-in-Residence Time for Three.

Richard Graef, the ISO french horn player who's been the key spokesman for the musicians throughout negotiations, says musicians' key cards stopped working Saturday. At this point they may only enter the building with an escort to retrieve any belongings. And the musicians are under a figurative lockout, without a contract since Sept. 2. The ISO report being unable to reach an agreement with the union, while the union itself further details that their proposed two-month contract, which would have allowed musicians to “play and talk” at reduced wages, was rejected by ISO management.

The ISO's decision to initiate a work stoppage is consistent with the dominant trend in American labor negotiations: according to reporting in The New York Times in January 2012, “the number of strikes has declined to just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago,” while “lockouts have grown to represent a record percentage of the nation's work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA.”

(a) a snake, easily charmed
(b) a much-maligned option for workers and families who lose health care coverage to continue receiving group benefits provided by its plan

ISO musicians have posted to their website ( a document (pdf link) purportedly distributed by ISO management noting that “because of the work stoppage (and the attendant reduction in hours), effective Monday, September 10, 2012, the Indiana Symphony Society, Inc. will cease making insurance payments on your behalf and your coverage will lapse unless you choose to continue coverage under COBRA at your expense.”

The ISO declined to comment on the document or on the health care benefits. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary for an employer to cease making benefit payments during a lockout. Nor would it be unique for an employer to resume payments during labor negotiations, as did New York’s Con Ed, having “bowed to public pressure,” according to a spokesperson, during the third week of a January 2012 lockout.

One of the ISO's complaints, on a document concerning labor negotiations posted to its website, concerned the health care plan in the expired contract, which required musicians to pay “less than 10 percent of the 'premium' for health insurance,” including up to $40,000 per year for massages (in total, not per person). Retired ISO musician Rosemary Rader answers the implicit challenge concerning the frivolousness of such massages in a letter submitted Sept. 10 to NUVO:

“As a string player, I can tell you that the wear and tear on your body is incredible. ... With the advent of a wellness program a few years ago at the ISO, the musicians are indeed permitted to use massage and other alternative physical therapies to address such issues to prevent surgery, and they are encouraged to follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen to improve their overall health.”

(a) employed for or involving full time
(b) devoting one's full attentions and energies to something
(American Heritage)

The ISO's “Update on Negotiations” on its website notes that, under the now-expired contract, the ISO had to “pay full salary and benefits to 82 musicians, even though we use 82 musicians less than half the year” (underlining theirs, because we never underline anything). Yes, musicians do get plenty of weeks off, but it's the nature of the industry; brain surgeons, college professors and tightrope walkers also tend to get plenty of time off.

We included alternate opinions on that situation in our article on the symphony last week. They included the argument that the labor market is so poor that talented musicians will take part-time gigs — but if the market hasn't drastically changed, part-time employees will end up proving less talented and committed than full-time players. Common sense certainly says that a part-time player won't pass up a full-time opportunity at another symphony. And musicians would tell you that they end up practicing or otherwise working to maintain their skills on an off-week.

good faith
(a) the opposite of bad faith, a state which we are all in, according to French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; “I am a waiter in the mode of being what I am not” (Being and Nothingness)
(b) honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person or to fulfill a promise to act, even when some legal technicality is not fulfilled (People's Law Dictionary); “The ISO believed the musicians to be negotiating in 'good faith,' as of Aug. 31”

While musicians have accused the ISO of proposing a course that would destroy the orchestra, they haven't accused the ISO of acting in “bad faith,” in the legal sense. Nor has the ISO said as much of the musicians, as we suggested in an act of rather irresponsible mind reading in last week's NUVO, when we said that acting CEO Jackie Groth and ISO board members believed they were being forced into a “lockout” by a union “not bargaining in good faith.” To be clear, neither CEO nor board members used the terms “lockout” or “good faith,” and we regret suggesting as much. We were the ones in bad faith, but such is always the case, per definition (a).

Further, horn player Rick Graef reports that the lines of communication are still open between the union and the ISO. He says that while it seems unlikely that the two parties will meet this week, talks have decidedly not stopped. The ISO reports a similar sentiment in its “Update on Negotiations.”

(a) the family and company that makes everyone happier, either via its endowment or Prozac; “Lilly makes the city go round”

We're deep in a section of the dictionary concerned with correcting the historical record. We inarticulately described the relationship of the Lilly Endowment and family to the ISO last week, making ISO board chair (and Ice Miller lawyer) John Thornburgh “very upset,” according to ISO spokesperson Jessica Di Santo.

What Thornburgh actually said could be properly paraphrased thusly: While both the ISO and IMA have enjoyed material support from the Lilly family, the ISO started with an endowment half the size of the IMA's when the endowment was founded using Lilly family money.


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