are unions to blame?

Michael Kaiser has a brief commentary in the June 6 edition of, where he asks if the musicians’ union is in fact what is wrong with the current orchestra model in the U.S. He doesn’t think that this is so, and lays much of the blame back on bad managers:

I have been surprised (and dismayed) to see how many arts organizations handle their donors, manage their special events and treat their board members. One arts manager I met told me that her organization never communicates with its donors except for writing them once a year and asking for their annual contribution! I recently went to a board member event for one organization where the board members were left to fend for themselves as the staff members sat and drank and ate! Another arts executive told me on several occasions how he “hates his board members and wishes they would go away!”

And then they are surprised when their levels of contributions fall.

Read the whole commentary here. [Thanks to Drew at for pointing out this article]


3 Replies to “are unions to blame?”

  1. well, as we all know, unions & tenured university positions can afford wonderful protection for the worthy.

    sadly, dead wood often gets continued “drifting rights” under union/tenure camouflage, as well.

    as for “bored” members, best upgrade the liquid wake-up call.

    badbeard’s, baby. 

    HIS quality is assured & HE don’t need no stinking union.


  2. IMHO, unions creates a divide within an organization.  The need for a union is a result of poor management / employee relations.  Good management results in a work environment  which is conducive to creativity, productivity, humanity, and ultimately profitability.  When those relationships go sour, unions form and the downward spiral begins as each side pits itself against the other.  

    Again, this is just my opinion, and I must admit that I’m in management (not in the arts).  Throughout my career, I’ve been brought into areas to resolve employee relation issues that stemmed from poor management which are easily resolved with a good dose of compassion.  On the flip side, to be profitable an organization can only go so far in compensation and benefits before going into the red and ultimately shutting down (which unfortunately I’ve experienced one too many times).  

  3. One could certainly not fault the Oregon Symphony for not communicating with its donors, at least from my experience. The development staff (Laura,Sarah and Molly) do an outstanding job of making me feel like more than just another donor. They are extremely courteous and helpful throughout the year. Thanks to them, I get the opportunity to attend some extra rehearsals. Those women are a major reason why I find it such an easy decision to support the symphony. We are fortunate to have such dedicated people at the symphony. It appears that other orchestras are not so blessed.

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