The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts told members of the National Symphony Orchestra it would no longer be paying them hours after President Donald Trump signed a $25 million bailout for the center.
According to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the musicians will no longer receive paychecks after April 3.
“The Covid-19 Advisory Committee was broadsided today during our conversation with [Kennedy Center President] Deborah Rutter,” the email read. “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 was sent just hours after President Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
“I’m a fan of that,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “I haven’t spent time there because I’m far too busy. I’d love to go there evenings, but I’m too busy doing things.”
He added, “The Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job, an incredible job.”
The funds were to be used to “cover operating expenses required to ensure the continuity of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its affiliates, including for employee compensation and benefits, grants, contracts, payments for rent or utilities, fees for artists or performers, information technology, and other administrative expenses,” according to the law’s text.
The email added that orchestra members should continue as if their April 3 paycheck will be their last.
“We understand this will come [as a] shock to all of you, as it did us,” the email read.
Considering that the center would be receiving money from the government, a veteran musician speaking on anonymity told the Washington Free Beacon that musicians were “blindsided” by the decision.
“It’s very disappointing [that] they’re going to get that money and then drop us afterward,” the musician said.
On March 12, the Kennedy Center announced it would cancel all public performances and events and shut its doors to the public through March 31. The cancellations were later extended through May 10.
Rutter told The Washington Post earlier this week that she would be foregoing her $1.2 million salary during the closures.
“I need to be the first person,” Rutter said. “My hope is that these circumstances don’t last forever, but I’m going to be a realist.”
Members of the orchestra plan to file a grievance with the center over its recent decision.
“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,” the email said. “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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