Dreaded consequence has become a reality

I am thoroughly disgusted with all aspects of the labor dispute that has led to the resignation of Osmo Vänskä from the Minnesota Orchestra. I have been sympathetic to the demands on both sides of this maddening state of affairs over the course of the last year, but the destruction of what once was has led me to a sad conclusion: This is proof that the survival of the American symphony orchestra is in jeopardy.

This is a “first” that Minnesota will not likely be glad to pride itself on — the unavailability of the incredible experience that only a top-10 live orchestra can give to an audience that supports and thrives on it and that is proud of the undeniable quality and artistry apparent in its community, not to mention the outreach and discovery such an experience provides to a huge number of children every year, enriching their lives even if right now they don’t know a symphony from a contract negotiation.

If reputation means little to the musicians and nothing to the management, then so be it. The choice has been made, and the consequences will follow. Perhaps the refurbished-for-millions Orchestra Hall can be rented out for sporting events or self-help seminars, now that it stands empty.

MARK LETHERT, Minneapolis

• • •

So we retain Ron Gardenhire, who has led his Minnesota Twins players to new plateaus of mediocrity, and we lose Maestro Vänskä, who has led his players to unparalleled levels of excellence. These two catastrophes are victories of ignorance from which recovery will be slow, if it happens at all.


• • •

Based on the recent status of the labor dispute, we have seen the last of that level of orchestra in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the current board does not understand that its goal should have been to maintain the quality of the music product rather than financial stability. If it would have offered, for example, a 10 percent reduction in musician salaries and allowed the logical outcome, eventual bankruptcy, then the financial viability of the orchestra would be in the hands of the people of Minnesota, where it belongs.

The people vote with their dollars every time they buy a concert ticket. If there are not enough “votes” to support the orchestra and the high quality of music it produces, then it is not a viable enterprise and will become a memory. Unfortunately, this crisis has just degraded to another management-vs.-labor dispute that is going nowhere.


• • •

Lockouts are nothing new. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Dublin Lockout of 1913. City employers, led by William Martin Murphy, foremost Irish businessman of the day, combined to lock out some 20,000 workers who were organizing with the Irish General Transport and Workers Union to gain better wages and working conditions.

The lockout began early in September. Gary Granville, author of “Dublin 1913: Lockout and Legacy,” records that — later in the month, believing the affair would soon end — Murphy said: “The employer all the time managed to get his three meals a day, but the unfortunate workman and his family had no resources whatever except submission, and that was what occurred in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. The difficulty in teaching that lesson to the workmen was extraordinary.”

Murphy’s statement makes clear the real purpose of lockouts.

But teaching submission proved much more difficult than he imagined. Granville reports that the impoverished Dublin workers stayed out a further six months, even without their three meals a day.

Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have refused to submit for more than a year now. They deserve support from other working people. The lesson they are bravely refusing to accept is meant for all of us who would dare resist pay cuts or demand a fair reward for our labor. Their struggle is ours.




Single-track design is a possible solution

There is at least one viable alternative to the Southwest Corridor discussion that has not been explored: a single-track light rail through the Kenilworth Corridor.

In this scenario, inbound and outbound trains would share a track between the Penn Avenue and Lake Street stations. Oncoming trains would meet at the 21st Street Station, which would have two tracks to enable trains to pass one another safely.

This design has been used successfully by Denver along its new W line. It is widely used by railroads in the mountainous regions of Japan, and I have no doubt that many other examples exist.

A single-track design would require no expensive tunnel. Nor would it require relocating the existing freight-rail traffic and foisting a two-story berm on the citizens of St. Louis Park. It would allow the commuter bike trail to remain in the corridor. It would be less expensive than any of the options now on the table. Finally, it would enable planners to take a more thoughtful approach to rerouting the heavy rail at some point in the future if that remains a priority.

ROY CLOSE, Minneapolis



The byline of the Sept. 30 commentary “A federal issue, a state priority,” about immigration reform, contained a spelling error. The article was coauthored by William Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.