Ex-Sen. George Mitchell steps into Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute

Former Sen. George J. Mitchell reportedly will lend a hand in solving a labor dispute that has paralyzed the Minnesota Orchestra.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine, has worked to broker peace in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. He was partnered with Major League Baseball to get to the bottom of its steroid scandal. And now it appears that Mitchell is lending a hand to the world of classical music by serving as a negotiator between the Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians.

The Minnesota Star Tribune has cited unnamed sources who said that Mitchell met last week in Washington, D.C., with representatives of management and labor to work out a possible settlement. The two sides have been fighting for more than 10 months, resulting in the cancellation of the orchestra’s 2012-13 season and its summer season.

Mitchell’s participation in the talks hasn’t been confirmed by the orchestra. The mediation process is being conducted in strict confidentiality, although the orchestra was expected to produce a new offer on Monday.


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The labor dispute -- the longest in U.S. orchestral history -- originated from a failure to reach a new contract and has resulted in management’s locking out its musicians. The talks appear to have reached a stalemate, and the orchestra’s season that was scheduled to begin in the fall could also be canceled.

Osmo Vänskä, the orchestra’s music director, said he will resign if a new agreement isn’t reached by Sept. 9. The orchestra has already lost some musicians who are jumping ship and seeking employment with other ensembles.

Principal clarinetist Burt Hara recently quit the Minnesota orchestra and joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as its new associate principal clarinetist.


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