Sunday, May 26, 2024

Kennedy Center Chaos Continues as National Symphony Orchestra Sends Legal Letter to Rubenstein, Rutter Over Firings


The members of the NSO sent a legal letter today to David Rubenstein and Deborah Rutter of the Kennedy Center over the firing of the symphony orchestra. The Kennedy Center was just announced as the recipient of $25 million to maintain itself when they made this egregious decision. I told you that the Kennedy Center is well funded and can certainly afford to pay the orchestra during this time. Rubenstein is a multi-multi millionaire. Rutter makes $1.3 million a year. Salaries for executives at the Center are almost $5 million a year. This is shameful behavior.

Here’s the release from the NSO:

Washington, DC—Today, the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra released a statement firing back at Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter’s decision to furlough the musicians, making their last paycheck April 3rd. Rutter also threatened to take away the healthcare of the musicians past May. The announcement comes on the heels of the news that the Kennedy Center would receive a $25 million grant as part of the coronavirus stimulus package.

On Tuesday, the musicians sent a legal letter to Kennedy Center management, challenging the legality of the decision to furlough them. The letter notes in part:

“In particular, we write to respond to the Kennedy Center’s position, as expressed on our call yesterday, that it unilaterally can “suspend” the parties’ entire collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) because of “exigent circumstances” on one week’s notice. That position is baseless.”

Said Steve Wilson, bassoonist and Co-Chair of the Orchestra Committee:

“On the same day that President Trump signed the stimulus package that would send $25 million to the Kennedy Center for, among other expenses, employee compensation, Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter illegally decided to stop paying us, and refused to promise to continue our healthcare past May.

“We were glad to learn yesterday that the Center has now decided that it will cover ‘full healthcare benefits for all furloughed employees.’ But it is unfortunate that Rutter and Kennedy Center management have opted to violate our contract and federal labor law rather than come to us to discuss a collective solution.

“We understand that the COVID crisis affects everyone. That’s why we have, throughout, been willing to collaborate and discuss ways to work with Kennedy Center management during this challenging time. Illegally breaking our contract isn’t an option here.

“Much smaller and less-resourced organizations than the Kennedy Center have managed to take care of their workers. We’d hope that the Kennedy Center – part of the federal government – could be a standard-bearer, rather than leading the race to the bottom.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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