Lyric strike: Deal is tabled, and junked

Lyric strike: Deal is tabled, and junked


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2018

Statement by the Lyric Opera:

Lyric Opera today offered the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) Local #10-208, a new contract proposal in an effort to resolve the current strike. 

The CFM leadership rejected the compromise, made no counter-proposal, and maintained their proposals to add nearly $2 million to the orchestra budget during the term of the contract.  As a result, Lyric performances will continue to be canceled, additional staff will be laid off, and the financial future of Lyric is in jeopardy…. This strike impacts over 1000 Lyric individuals and their families. 

Among other proposals, Lyric offered wage increases that result in average take-home wages (including vacation pay) of $82,500 per orchestra member, for 22 weeks of work per year. Overtime wages begin after 20 hours in a week, producing additional income. Work on the musical, community engagement activities, and The Joffrey Ballet performances would be additive, as would the extra 5 weeks of work on the Ring Cycle next year.  Lyric also proposed to continue the generous plan of full health and welfare benefits for orchestra members and their families.  A musician who works the 22 weeks is entitled to these benefits for the full calendar year by paying only 8% of the premium.  Lyric pays 92%, which costs the company nearly $1 million annually.  

The musicians issued this statement:

Today, Lyric Management sent what it called a “settlement offer” to the Orchestra musicians through a federal mediator. Management gave the musicians a grand total of six hours to accept it, or else it would be withdrawn.

The offer doubled down on every demand Lyric made in its last, best, and final offer. The only change is to offer to “guarantee” work the musicians already have. Lyric’s offer is nothing more than a bogus PR stunt, and the musicians have no choice but to reject it.

As we have stated, Lyric has been demanding:

– Cutting the number of Orchestra musicians by eliminating five positions.

– Cutting the pay of the remaining Orchestra musicians by 8%.

– Cutting the number of Opera performances, hand-in-hand with cutting the number of working weeks for the Orchestra from 24 to 22.

– Eliminating all of Lyric’s popular radio broadcasts.

None of that has changed with today’s “settlement offer.” The difference is that now, Lyric says it will promise to hire the Orchestra for certain work that occurs outside the main opera season. It’s an empty gesture because Lyric was required to do that anyway.

Everyone is now playing directly to the gallery.


  • anon says:

    “Everyone is now playing directly to the gallery.”

    That was clear from the beginning, except in 2018 America, who is the “gallery” and is there anyone left in the gallery?

    Surely, it’s not the general public, not even regular patrons, it’s their own wallet.

    As soon as management feels that they’ve lost the confidence of the Board, they’ll offer whatever the orchestra wants; likewise, when orchestra members begin to feel the pain of no paycheck, they’ll take whatever management offers, The two events usually happen at around the same time, so they’ll cut the proverbial baby in half, each claiming victory.

  • David Griffin says:

    In their latest proposal, Lyric Opera management had offered the musicians a giant nothing burger. It represents no improvement from previous offers. Really, the public has so strongly voiced their support for the musicians of the orchestra, management will be seriously damaging the institution instead of nurturing and growing this great opera company.

  • Preston Wolcott says:

    Can we talk about how much money Anthony Freud is making, how large Anthony Freud’s salary increases have been, and how these two things are not at all commensurate with the compensation of Lyric’s bargaining units? No one is coming to see Anthony Freud perform, and yet all the musical and theatrical artists give Lyric’s audiences magic night after night. I stand with the orchestra.