Kennedy Center Cons Taxpayers, Ends Musicians’ Pay Hours After $25 Million Bailout


Commentary

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is setting a new standard for petty greed.

The organization somehow managed to get Democrats to give it $25 million worth of funding in the coronavirus stimulus bill.

And then, on the same day it got its windfall, the Kennedy Center informed the performers in the National Symphony Orchestra that they will no longer be getting paid.

Orchestra members were informed that they would stop getting their paychecks on April 3, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“The [committee] was broadsided today during our conversation with [Kennedy Center President] Deborah Rutter,” the orchestra’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee wrote in an email to its members.

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“Ms. Rutter abruptly informed us today that the last paycheck for all musicians and librarians will be April 3 and that we will not be paid again until the Center reopens,” the email read.

“Everyone should proceed as if their last paycheck will be April 3,” the email continued. “We understand this will come [as a] shock to all of you, as it did to us.”

It probably comes as a stunner to the musicians because the Center just received $25 million and is now crying poverty and cutting off the people who need the funds most.

One musician who spoke to the Free Beacon said that the artists were “blindsided” by the Center’s decision.

Do you think the Center should give back the $25 million?

“It’s very disappointing [that] they’re going to get that money and then drop us afterward,” the musician said. “The Kennedy Center blindsided us.”

The Center was facing financial difficulties after a $250 million renovation, but it received $41 million in taxpayer funds in 2019.

Those financial difficulties became great enough that Rutter said she would not take her $1.2 million salary while the Center was closed during the pandemic.

But the orchestra members, who likely live paycheck to paycheck and do not have millions in the bank like she does, do not have the luxury to forgo their paychecks.

They need those paychecks and they need the health care coverage that comes with it.

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The orchestra’s union filed a grievance against the Center, but the decision is not likely to come for weeks.

“While the Union understands that the Kennedy Center has decided to cancel all performances through May 10, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those cancellations do not give the Association any contractual basis for failing to comply with the sections of the [agreement],” the grievance read, according to the Free Beacon.

“There is no provision of our collective bargaining agreement that allows the Kennedy Center to decide to stop paying us with only one week of notice,” orchestra members wrote in an email.

“While we fully expect that an arbitrator would agree that management violated the CBA and that we are entitled to continued salary and benefits, this process takes time.”

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