Chicago classical musicians on strike

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Elgar – Nimrod (from “Enigma Variations“)

Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, opening the 1997 season at Carnegie Hall in this gorgeously performed dedication to the recently deceased Sir Georg Solti. Solti was the previous music director of the CSO for many years.

By Kristina Betinis in the USA:

Chicago Symphony musicians walk out

24 September 2012

On Saturday, over one hundred Chicago Symphony Orchestra players rejected the Orchestra Association’s final offer of a three-year concessions contract. The players formed picket lines outside of Orchestra Hall ahead of a scheduled evening performance.

This is the first strike at the CSO in more than twenty years. In 1991, Chicago Symphony musicians were on strike for three weeks.

The players’ contract expired September 16, and negotiations for a new contract took place throughout the summer months.

The issues in the strike center on musicians’ wages and health care costs. A seven percent increase in employee healthcare costs outstrips the proposed pay raises for the years spanned by the contract, in effect cutting the orchestra’s pay. The Chicago Federation of Musicians is asking for pay raises to cover the health cost increases.

Cellist David Sanders, a member of the CSO musicians’ negotiating committee, told the Chicago Classical Review that the players had made concessions in past and current contracts, but that management kept coming back for more. “They’re asking for major concessions,” said Sanders on the picket line Saturday. “It’s thousands of dollars in givebacks. We spent weeks [negotiating and] giving them everything they asked for, and they continue to take away and take away and take away.”

Deborah Rutter, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, referred to the austerity policies being implemented all over the country, commenting, “They’re doing very well by what the national standard is.”

Earlier this year, Rutter announced a record-breaking year of fundraising for the CSO, whose contributions increased 15 percent to $24 million.

According to a national study of 2008-09 orchestra budgets, 42 percent of total compensation went to executives, while just 17 percent went to players. Orchestra executives generally make annual salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, although Rutter’s current pay isn’t public.

As Sanders suggests, Chicago Symphony Orchestra members have given back thousands of dollars in pay and benefits in recent years. For the last contract in 2009, CSO players accepted a 2.5 percent pay cut and agreed to perform at certain events without pay.

No further contract talks are scheduled. Several upcoming performances may be canceled if the strike continues, including a season opener at Carnegie Hall in New York City, after which Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was to preside as honorary chairman at a $1,500-per-plate gala dinner to raise funds for Carnegie programs.

The Chicago Symphony, one of the oldest in the US, was founded in 1891 and has a distinguished history. It is generally ranked among the finest such orchestras in the country. In the postwar years, its music directors included Rafael Kubelik, Fritz Reiner and, most famously, Georg Solti, who served in that position for 22 years, from 1969 to 1991. Daniel Barenboim held the post from 1991 to 2006, and Riccardo Muti is the current music director. Significant principal guest conductors have included Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado and Pierre Boulez.

The cultural role of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in its home city and nationally, is undeniable. Only a handful of orchestras in the country have the endowment to support a large number of players, composers-in-residence, live performances of new music, a pre-professional civic orchestra and a large library of original recordings. The attack on the Chicago Symphony musicians, following the assault on their counterparts at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2010-11, is an escalation of the war against cultural institutions in the US.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) members voted Tuesday morning to approve a contract settlement reached the previous evening. Orchestra players had been on strike since Saturday over wages and increased health care contributions: here.

The opening of the 2012-2013 concert season has seen a series of lockouts and concession contracts at major symphony orchestras across the US. Musicians in Chicago, Atlanta and Indianapolis have had givebacks imposed on wages or benefits. In Minneapolis, St. Paul, Seattle and Jacksonville, Florida major concessions have also been demanded: here.

7 thoughts on “Chicago classical musicians on strike

      • And they are usually people who do not need the money; eg lawyers wives, retired execs, etc..
        In our town we have a zoo that has operated for decades but we have a “Zoological Society” that is full of those types. They stick their nose in the actual running of the Zoo and therefore we can not keep a good Zoo director for longer than a year or two.


  1. Musicians locked out

    US: The Minnesota Orchestra has cancelled its concerts between October 18 and November 25 after announcing a lockout of its musicians.

    Management has rejected union proposals for arbitration on a new contract.

    The musicians rejected a management offer that would have cut salaries by an average of 34 per cent.

    See also


  2. Pingback: Chicago, USA classical musicians on strike | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Chicago classical musicians keep fighting for their rights | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.