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A familiar refrain as Chicago musicians hit the picket line

A familiar refrain as Chicago musicians hit the picket line

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.


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Side not Professor… LI is listed on Daily Caller story obout Warren practicing law.


As one who loves classical music I also realize that the occupation is a losing proposition if you consider box office receipts vs. expenses.

Like many other occupations, (INCLUDING TEACHERS, firefighters, police etc), salaries need to be brought in line with available revenues.

Maybe we would be better off with a few less orchestras to balance the books…

Heavens to Murgatroyd !!! Those po’ dears.

Oh the inhumanity; expecting them to live on 145/year working their fingers to the bone, to the bone I tell ya, to the bone, doing what they love to do, working in the arts, an occupation fraught with as many dangers as farming, logging, fishing, mining, construction. And as musicians their contributions to society are as essential, perhaps even more than the listed occupations.

How can management live with itself?

Wait until the CSO management puts them in a government “exchange”. That’s when it will REALLY get expensive.

9thDistrictNeighbor | September 24, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I’m sorry, but I really see absolutely no use for unions anymore. Find me a current example of management exploiting labor in the US. I doubt it can be done. The time for unions has come and gone.

Symphony musicians, teachers, pilots, NFL referees, postal service, TSA, nurses, soon to be physicians I’m sure. Give me a break.

Currently you can have you pick of box seats for Thursday 9/26 at 8p.m.; Riccardo Muti conducts Dvorak and Resphighi–$206. Plenty available. Or choose a nosebleed seat with a restricted view for $28. Still scheduled to perform. Come and get it.

It’s quite weird that artists of that caliber are unionized at all. If they were worth as much as they think – or if there was enough money to support their demands – they would have agents.

“It’s quite weird that artists of that caliber are unionized at all.”
Perhaps they think that otherwise they would be forced to perform at childrens’ birthday parties. 🙂

    GrumpyOne in reply to pst314. | September 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I know many musicians that do just that and they are top notch talent.

    Perhaps it’s time to bring back community orchestras that play a season as reasonably paid volunteers which in turn results in reasonably priced tickets to the public.

    Most people have never experience what a large orchestra sounds like and given the opportunity to do so could only enhance their listening experience.

Even when government builds it

Unions want to own it
or break it

Maybe they can turn Chicago into another Detroit

OMG! How are Chicagoans going to live without a symphony orchestra?

I am at a complete loss to understand how anyone would even know if a symphony orchestra were to go on strike. They are like polar bears. They could all go extinct tomorrow and the only way the vast majority of people would even know would be if someone told them.

Be prepared for more and more public employee strikes as it becomes increasingly apparent – even to Democrats – that government budget belt-tightening must occur in the very near future at the federal, state, and local levels.

Folks want to ink one last mega-contract before the budget axes come down. The union-dependent Democrat Party wants the same thing, one last big payday before the inevitable.

KM from Detroit | September 25, 2012 at 8:01 am

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra went on strike a couple of years ago–lost almost an entire concert season. I don’t remember whatever came of it, but I’m reasonably sure they actually backed down, or at least agreed to more reasonable concessions.

But I look at this and see the CSO gets paid twice as much as Chicago’s teachers and gets 12 weeks PAID off per year? Show me another career that does that. That’s outrageous. I’m not even speaking from jealousy (I wouldn’t know what to do with myself with 12 weeks of vacation).

These people are more out-of-touch and elitist than they accuse Romney of being!

This from a Chicago Tribune article on the strike:
“… musician compensation, including salary, pensions, health care and overtime, constitutes far less than one-third of the total budget.”


There are now reports of a settlement. What accounts for the other two-thirds of the CSO budget?