Kentucky’s Division of Unemployement Insurance has ruled that Louisville Orchestra musicians have been on strike and not locked out. The musicians are considered to have been on strike since the end of June, according to a release from Louisville Orchestra management. With this ruling they are voluntarily withholding their labor and therefore not entitled to unemployment income, said Robert Birman, CEO of the Louisville Orchestra.
Musicians will not receive any more unemployment benefits and will be forced to pay back any benefits they’ve received since June, he said.
But, the musicians say management’s attempts to cut the size and season length of the ensemble make the situation a lockout.
With the orchestra not performing there’s a risk of the community losing interest and ticket revenue has not been generated this year. The management has begun to look for replacement players and it’s unclear whether the community will support new musicians or replacements, said Birman.
“We won’t know, in theory, what we’ve lost until we seek investment in something tangible,” he said.
Musicians spokeswoman Kim Tichenor said she has not yet reviewed the ruling but that she and the musicians plan to file an appeal.
“LOI’s (Louisville Orchestra Inc) crowing that the unemployment case is concluded, however, could not be more misleading and erroneous, as this is merely the first stage of the case,” Tichenor wrote in an email.
Contentious negotiations between Louisville Orchestra musicians and management have cancelled concerts through the beginning of March and the board will consider whether further cancellations are necessary.