The musicians in Philadelphia are out of contract. If they can’t get a new deal soon, the orchestra will be back where it was five years ago – shut down and bankrupt. The atmosphere is souring.
Read what the musicians have to say:
It has been more than five years since the Board of the Philadelphia Orchestra voted to file for bankruptcy, becoming the first major American orchestra to do so. At the time, the Orchestra had a $140 million endowment, owned the Academy of Music, and had no debts, according to an NPR article from April 18, 2011.
Although the filing in April, 2011 was opposed by the musicians, the public was told that it was a necessary step, and that when the Orchestra emerged from bankruptcy, things would be much better.
When the court approved the bankruptcy, the Association made wholesale changes to our pension plan. The Plan was frozen and its administration was transferred to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, a U. S. government entity. Some musicians may receive lower pensions than they would have earned under the frozen Plan. The retirement benefits which were substituted for the Plan do not guarantee the benefit level specified in the Plan. In addition, the orchestra musicians, who had voluntarily taken a wage freeze the year before, and who had donated a significant amount of money to the Association, saw their salaries reduced by more than 14 percent. The size of the orchestra was also reduced, from 106 full-time positions to 95.
The Association, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Peter Dobrin, spent “almost $10 million in professional fees and expenses” on the bankruptcy, and paid settlements of $1.75 million to the American Federation of Musicians Pension Plan, and $1.25 million to the Philly Pops in the process.
More than five years later, Musicians hoped that the Association would view the bankruptcy as a temporary means to regroup and ultimately restore the kind of budget that is necessary to fund a major symphony orchestra, rather than as a way to downgrade the musicians’ contract permanently. More than five years later, we are still waiting….
The regressive contracts under which we have worked since the bankruptcy have saved the Association millions of dollars. We have patiently endured cuts to our salary, pension, and health care. It is time to move forward and restore us to our proper place in the pantheon of orchestras.