Here we go again. Another group of Chicagoans is going on strike. And this time, it’s not the teachers.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike over the weekend to protest proposed three-year contract salary levels and an increase in the percent they pay of their health coverage. According to the management of the CSO, the average salary in the third year of the proposed contract would be $173,000, compared to the current average of $144,820:
In fiscal year 2012, the CSO minimum base pay was $2,785/week ($144,820 annually). The average salary is $173,000. Only one other U.S. orchestra has a higher base pay.
A press release from the CSO management addressed the standoff:
The last, best and final contract offered by the Association would have made the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra among the best-compensated in a U.S. orchestra, while also maintaining benefits such as 12 weeks of paid time off per year, a defined benefit pension plan, excellent health insurance and a minimum size of 106 orchestra musicians. The parties are chiefly at odds over wages and employee contributions toward health care costs.
CSO musicians also would be required to increase the percentage of health care costs they are responsible for from 5% (current) to 12%. However, the plan itself would be changed so as to reduce the overall health costs (and, by extension, the actual amount that CSO musicians would pay).
While it seems like this familiar refrain is confined to Chicago, the Atlanta Symphony’s season is currently in jeopardy as management there, faced with a $20 million budget deficit, has been working to find an agreement for cutting musicians’ salaries, among other items.
Get used to the refrain as everyone is having to come to terms with reduced revenues and the dismal economy, perhaps even union management.