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Musicians decry Pasadena merger

Union accuses symphony of unfair practices in planned joining with Pops.

June 25, 2007|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Professional Musicians Local 47 has filed charges of unfair labor practices and grievances against the Pasadena Symphony, touched off by the ensemble's planned merger with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra.

Hal Espinosa, president of Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians, said in a statement Friday that the National Labor Relations Act and the master agreement between the Pasadena Symphony and the union require the orchestra to bargain with the union before implementing any new terms of employment for its musicians or those of the Pops. No bargaining took place, Espinosa said.

Additionally, according to the statement, Local 47 issued a written demand, after receiving news of the merger through a Pasadena Symphony press release, that the Pops Orchestra immediately begin bargaining with the union over its decision to dissolve Oct. 1 so that the merger could take place. As of Friday, the statement said, the union had received no response.

The two groups announced June 18 that they would merge under the umbrella of the Pasadena Symphony Assn.

According to the announcement, Jorge Mester would remain music director of the Pasadena Symphony and continue to conduct concerts at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, and Rachael Worby would remain music director of the summer pops programs at Descanso Gardens. The Pasadena Pops Orchestra would be disbanded, however, with most of its roughly 70 musicians losing their jobs.

A new group, made up of Pasadena Symphony members and a handful of musicians from the Pops who also play in the symphony, would perform the Descanso Gardens concerts under the new name of the Pasadena Pops Symphony.

The union charges that it had no knowledge that the consolidation of the two groups was imminent. Espinosa said only that he had participated in a meeting with Pasadena Symphony representatives on May 21, during which he was advised that the orchestra was "exploring" a potential purchase of the Pops' assets.

He was assured, he said, that the orchestra would negotiate with the union over the effect the deal would have on both Symphony and Pops musicians.

The charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board aim to ensure that "the final resolution regarding the staffing of future Pops concerts is the product of collective bargaining."

Tom O'Connor, executive director of the Pasadena Symphony, was unavailable for comment before press time Sunday.

Problems within the Pasadena Pops are not new. Pops players say that in recent years they have filed more than 30 grievances against management for demoting or dismissing people without cause or not following proper procedures.

"Thirty may be on the high side," Espinosa said Friday. "But I've probably filed more grievances against the Pasadena Pops management than against all the other employers put together."

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