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Future of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra still up in the air

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Nate Luzod
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DSO players have been on strike since Oct 4, 2010.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians said last week they would return to the stage if management agreed to binding arbitration. But management has yet to agree…so the musicians are still on strike.

Roland Zullo is a labor specialist at the University of Michigan. He says binding arbitration is all about persuasion; which side can best convince a panel of the merits of their bargaining proposals:

"If management looked at their proposal carefully, weighed it against what’s happening elsewhere in the industry and saw that they were on weak ground, they might refuse arbitration."

Zullo says it would "be good for the public" for management to accept binding arbitration "and get the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back up and operating again."

In a statement, a DSO spokeswoman said management proposed several ways to return the musicians to work.

According to the musicians' press release, none of the proposals so far include binding arbitration:

Instead of choosing to accept the musicians offer for binding arbitration and returning to work under the conditions management offered on Feb. 15, DSO executives sent an email demanding that: 1) The musicians must come back to work under management’s imposed “Proposal “B” with a no-strike agreement. 2) Once on stage, with an agreement not to go on strike again, the parties would meet with a mediator to discuss their differences, for yet another time. 3) Then, at some point in the future, the parties would discuss the possibility of maybe having limited binding arbitration on a small number of issues which would not include management's financial offer, allocation of the money in that offer, media proposal, and other issues important to management.

The DSO suspended the rest of the season last month after players rejected what management called its ‘final’ offer. The players have been on strike since October 4, 2010.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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