Legendary negotiator George Mitchell wades into MN Orchestra lockout

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There's strife in Northern Ireland. There's intractable conflict in the Middle East. And then there's the labor dispute between Minnesota Orchestra musicians and management.

And suddenly there's George Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and international mediator, who is apparently going to take a crack at the 10-month lockout of orchestra musicians.

Both the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio are reporting this is the case, the Strib relying on "sources close to the situation" and MPR citing "a source familiar with the situation." Neither management nor the musicians will confirm or deny Mitchell's involvement.

Mitchell laid out the blueprint for peace in Northern Ireland as a Special Envoy for President Bill Clinton in 1996 and a Special Envoy to the Middle East for President Barack Obama. A pretty heavy hitter. Then again, the lockout is the longest of any other major orchestra lockout in the country.

Mitchell, 79, was appointed to the U.S. Senate from Maine in 1980 and served as the chamber's Majority Leader from 1989-95. He was chosen from a list of possible mediators given to Gov. Mark Dayton this past spring, according to the Star Tribune. Both sides supplied names, and Mitchell agreed to take on the challenge, the paper reports.

Mitchell might want to start with conductor Osmo Vanska, who according to MPR has said he'll resign in September there is no resolution by then.

Negotiations for a new contract for musicians began in April 2012. Management’s first offer would have cut base salaries by 32 percent. Musicians never offered an official counter proposal. The old agreement expired on Oct. 1, and not a note has been heard since.

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