Chicago Symphony strike: Talks break down

Chicago Symphony strike: Talks break down


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2019

Latest from the CSOA overnight:

CSOA Statement – 03.16.19

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) and the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) continued negotiations today on a new contract for the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). A new agreement has not yet been reached, and the parties have not scheduled any further sessions at this time.

Back to the mattresses.



  • anon says:

    Why did the musicians elect to strike AFTER the Asia tour?

    They lost all leverage when they took that threat off the table.

    The board would’ve gave because the international reputation of the orchestra to honor contracts and engagements was at stake.

    Because so many players are Asian, and among them, so many principal players and active unions reps, they let their desire for one last free trip home to see friends and families, that they let personal judgement cloud their negotiating judgement.

    By so doing, they probably lost the negotiation.

    • Steve says:

      From what I’ve heard, the musicians decided to wait until after the tour to strike because otherwise they might have risked losing Bank of America’s sponsorship of the tour (which is a pretty big deal considering that Bank of America is CSO’s global sponsor). Regardless, I think this strike looks bad for all parties involved, but I feel like it will eventually look worse for the musicians (especially from the outsider’s perspective). Even though these musicians are world-class and deserve world-class compensation (I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some amazing concerts of theirs), the fact of the matter is that classical music is not widely valued in America (as much as we’d like it to be, it’s just not…). Since their base pay is a healthy 6-figure number already, which is more than enough to have a very comfortable quality of life in Chicago, the whole situation just makes the musicians look greedy (even though they aren’t). It’s unfortunately an optics issue that doesn’t work in the musicians’ favor, considering that the majority of people in society looking from the outside don’t have much sympathy for people protesting for a higher salary than the very nice one they already have. The management has already offered a 5% wage increase over the next three years, and while the pension issue is important to the musicians, pensions are rare for anyone in America today…

    • Mick the Knife says:

      The contract extension ended March 10, a month after the tour. I’ve never heard of a pre-emptive strike; one when there is a contract being executed.

    • Bruce says:

      Yes, that must be why.

  • Michael Blim says:

    The board chair is the wife of Sam Zell, whose great accomplishments almost included under his brief ownership destroying the Chicago Tribune. Now the players face his thoroughly neoliberal partner in crime.

    • Chuck says:

      Yes, and the Zell Family Foundation in 2014 gave a gift of a only $17,000,000 to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. (I would like my fave orchestra to have more “partners in crime” such as Sam and Helen Zell, but maybe that’s just me.)

      • Is that so?! says:

        Don’t know if this is true but rumor has it that those 17 mil have been gifted to CSO in her will… in other words CSO might receive it once she dies provided she does not change her will…. funny isn’t it?

    • Mkay says:

      He took down the pensions of the LA Times and Tribune. He also called the Tribune Journalists greedy. They are horrible people and Helen should not be allowed to make any decision simply because they are loaded. He is also quoted as saying all Americans want to be rich and don’t want any handouts. They are nasty horrible people and I don’t understand why she is on the board. Bought her way in? This is some 1800’s business model. Happy to see someone else call out the Zells. That and I had to explain to a friend that the Zell Music Director wasn’t a classical term but someone’s name stuck on. That and she started studying piano and plays at fundraisers for Yo Yo Ma. Talk about buying your way in… How about let people who studied their whole lives play for Yo Yo Ma. A donor should not be on the board. Just give them a box seat and some rehearsals to watch. Otherwise go home.

      • Anon says:

        I fear you have misunderstood how boards and donors work in the US. To have your orchestra financed, you need donors. And you give them a seat at the table. The Boards are broadly “give or get” – to be on the Board you either give money, or you get money. This is the primary function of the Board in US orchestras (I exaggerate a little for effect, but not much).

        If you don’t like it… you try getting enough wealthy people to cough up without having any input in to the organisation. And is there anything wrong with this, really?

        • Saxon Broken says:

          American orchestras are owned by the donors; London orchestras are owned by the musicians; European orchestras are owned by the state.