Former SMSO Musicians Allege Anti-Union Harassment

Former Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra cellist Susan Dietrich-Reed believes disciplinary action against five musicians older than 65 is not only age discrimination but also punishment for their labor union activity.

“I’ve endured intimidation and harassment for years,” she tells WSJM News. “I have been the orchestra committee chair since this orchestra organized to be a member of the American Federation of Musicians back in 1998. In fact, I was part of that organization team, most recently a union steward. I have been at the negotiation tables.”

Orchestra Director Sue Kellogg denies any age discrimination and says no musicians are being fired.

Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra is in labor negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians on a new contract. Bargaining sessions were held Tuesday and Wednesday.

Steve Dietrich-Reed says both he and Susan, respected longtime musicians and educators in St. Joseph, were key union leaders who took musician complaints to management.

“It struck me that we’re the messengers, we’re gonna shoot the messengers,” he said. “And we’re gonna include them with these other musicians too who all happen to be over the age of 65.”

The two and a violinist resigned after getting disciplinary letters May 31st. The Dietrich-Reeds are consulting with an attorney regarding their age discrimination complaint and keeping their national union informed as well.

Orchestra Director Sue Kellogg denies any age discrimination and says no musicians are being fired. Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra is in labor negotiations with the American Federation of Musicians on a new contract. She also says the symphony is not anti-union, adding it’s “in negotiations with the union now and they’re going well.” She tells us what it happening is “the normal process of the Music Director when he feels there’s an artistic deficiency.”