Chicago musicians reject ‘last, best and final offer’. The strike goes on

The musicians say the Board proposal would:

Freeze the pension plan at its current level, prohibiting new hires from joining and denying nearly 2/3 of the orchestra currently in the pension plan any guarantee to increase their retirement benefit. New employees would get no guaranteed retirement benefit.

It would also limit the base salary increase to an average of 2.3% per year over five years,

· hardly keeping up with inflation;

· not making up for the losses over the past five years since the last contract; and

· putting the CSO farther behind the salary offerings of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

‘We are extremely disappointed that management refuses to hear the Musicians’ concerns about a secure retirement for the Musicians and a secure future for the CSO’, said Steve Lester, Chairman of the Musicians’ negotiating committee. ‘In contrast, the proposal put forth by the Union – but rejected by the Board — fully addressed management’s alleged concerns about unpredictable pension funding while guaranteeing the Musicians and the Orchestra the security deserved.’

The Board says:
The Association now faces the need to review the CSO season schedule and cancel additional concerts as needed due to the musicians’ decision to continue to strike. ‘Throughout these negotiations we have continued to listen to the concerns of our musicians and have directly responded with proposals that provide an exceptional, comprehensive compensation package. With the final offer on Sunday night, we have proposed a long-term agreement that would allow the parties to repair their working relationship, bring stability to the
organization, support the musicians in a transition to a new retirement benefit and grow the annual base salary by 12%, retaining a contract that remains at the top of our industry,” said CSOA President Jeff Alexander.#

The Board’s final offer included:
 5-year agreement vs. a 3-year agreement;
 Annual salary increases each year of 2%, 2%, 2%, 2.5% and 3% reaching an annual minimum base pay of $178,152 in the final year of the contract vs. the 1%, 2%, 2% reaching an annual minimum base pay of $167,094 in the final year of the contract;
 A phased transition of the retirement plan for current members of the Orchestra. Each musician can select from two options (July 1, 2020 or July 1, 2023) for the date of their transition from the Defined Benefit (DB) pension plan to a Defined Contribution (DC) plan, depending on what best suits their individual needs. Until then, they can continue to earn benefits under the DB plan.
 Increase in the annual employer contribution for the new DC plan from 7% to 8% for all current and new musicians;
 Special, additional transition contributions for three years, based on current musicians’ years of service and age. 67 musicians would receive the maximum additional contributions from the Association into their individual retirement accounts – totalin more than $90,000 in the first three years of the transition;
 To directly address the musicians’ stated desire for protection from potential shortfalls in their DC accounts, the Association added an investment protection feature to provide security of their annual benefit in retirement.

 

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  • For some reason the Chicago players have San Fran and LA stuck In their head. The money went out west years ago and everyone else but Chicago has figured that out. Obviously there is no way for a Midwest orchestra to compete with San Fran money, not even Chicago. The cost of living and many other scenarios are completely different. I am not happy about the power shift that has occured either; but it is what it is.

    • I wonder if they are trying to appeal to the board’s (and the public’s) sense of civic pride by mentioning other cities: we’re the best, so we deserve the best — we shouldn’t be second place in anything. If so, I’m not sure it’s working.

      Sometimes you end up with a board — or a faction therein, whose members have managed to get themselves onto the negotiating committee — that is really dedicated to busting the musicians down a few notches. It can be for a variety of reasons, which can be hard to uncover.

      Some of us might remember the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, where e-mails were discovered outlining a plan to raise money for renovation of their hall while they purposely neglected fundraising for the orchestra, so that when contract negotiations came around they could point to the decline in contributions as a reason that the budget must be reduced. I’m not sure that revelation had any actual effect on the situation there, but I thought it was telling.

      Anyway, it doesn’t look like the CSO board is buying the “civic pride” angle if that’s what the musicians are going for. They (the board) might have an attitude of “forget being behind LA and SF — let’s make sure they’re behind ________ [fill in your favorite orchestra that plays well for a relatively modest salary]!”

  • The sin of gluttony and the sin of envy are mortal sins, but the CSO musicians are paying immediately with the loss of salary, loss of the season, loss of goodwill.

    In this gig economy, the CSO’s rejected offer (let’s not forget with tenure!) would be most people’s wet dream.

    But what the CSO can’t stomach is the mere fact that LA and SF pay more in terms of salary.

    Yet, what the CSO does not say is that the rejected pension plan is worse than those of LA and SF.

    Because what the CSO wants is the best of both worlds: a salary that is higher than LA and SF, as well as a pension plan that is better than NY (the only top orchestra retaining a direct benefit plan, even though their salary is lower than Chicago’s).

    No doubt, the CSO accountants have calculated the end date at which the total loss of salary = the expected gain in salary and pension, before which point they will settle.

    Good luck.

    • The CSO musicians are looking pretty selfish at this point.

      The offer on the table seems fair even if it does not make the CSO the highest paid orchestra or retains the defined benefit pension.

      The people that the musicians are playing for around town can only dream of such a salary with tenure and 12 weeks off a year.

      Time for the musicians to get back to work.

      • Dear Sir David Geffen-Hall, please permit me to say that I like your nom de plume. Brilliant! As for your comment: it looks there is a dearth of billionaires in Chicago who could do something useful with their surplus billions in funding the CSO. Have they gone, I wonder? Silicon Valley’s tech billionaires are only a very few among those who support the SF Symphony. That might change with Esa Pekka Salonen coming to town, since MTT has been around for so (some say too) long that he could only generate the most modest of excitement in recent years.

        • Thank you Edgar for noticing my name. Many think it is fake. I assure you it is not.

          Yes, it is interesting that not all the Silicon Valley billionaires are on board with the SFO. Indeed it only takes a few to push hard and create any CBA offer to a group of musicians.

          The economic muscle is indeed here in Chicago. There are plenty of billionaires including the Zell family that has created a new type of position called a Zell Music Director. (When I was in college, we just called them music directors).

          The real issue is whether the Big Money in the Windy City wants to pay what they musicians are asking.

          And the answer to that question is obvious.

        • Which begs the question of why ‘silicon valley’ billionaires can’t or wont’ fund a serious symphony orchestra in their own front yard. If it wasn’t for David Packard, there wouldn’t even be opera in San Jose (I could be wrong on that point, but not far from the truth).

    • I have heard a few graduates of these institutions (and several other prominent music schools as well) admit as much in moments of sober reflection …

    • true story. There is a business management talk at my alma matter and it is a joke. Might be a course, still a joke. It’s not the real world at all. These schools are far behind. It’s the equivalent of med schools teaching leech letting.

  • Apart from other arguments I believe that it is important to remember that the new additions to the orchestra are probably in hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt not to mention the credit card debt of many who were in the gig economy before they got into the CSO. That, in addition to ballooning housing costs are part of the costs of living that these musicians are facing.

    • Yes, but that’s also true for a far greater number of people who don’t land nearly $200,000 per year jobs.

    • Mmmm. I got a full ride and so did the best talents. I would imagine the top don’t have to pay much. There are usually top scholarships.

      • Many of my colleagues, in major orchestras, have (or had) student loan debt. Not everyone follows the same path and it’s insulting to say that the “best talents” all had full rides. I too went to a full-ride conservatory and landed a big job, but I still have debt from the school I went to before the conservatory. And it’s very common… maybe only among us lesser talents.

  • To sound like a broken record, salary comparisons to LA and SF are inappropriate given the high cost of housing there (NY, too; not sure why they don’t talk about that more). But one thing is clear: Management is trying to pass the investment risk of the pension plan to the musicians, even though the CSO, as a fairly sizeable institution with access to great investment advisors, is surely in a better position to manage that risk.

    • there is a chance that because they are musicians they simply do not want to take financial and business matters into their own hands.

  • Let’s put this in perspective:

    Under the rejected proposal, if you came into the CSO at the age of 20, earned their base salary, never got promoted but still got your 2% increase every year, you’d still earn at retirement after 47 years of tenure as a poor second violin, just in terms of salary, the CSO lifetime minimum wage of $12,300,000.

    This is a strike of millionaires against their billionaire bosses.

    And we are supposed to cry for whom?

  • According to one source, the average cost of living in the 3 cities is: San Francisco, 204.70% above national average; Los Angeles, 95.10% above national average; Chicago, 17.80% above national average.

  • I DO NOT THINK THAT THERE WILL BE MUCH PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THE CSO MUSICIANS. WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE MAKING NOW COMPARED TO MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC, THE CSO MUSICIANS ARE IN THE TOP TIER. TO COMPARE LA AND SF MISSES THE POINT. SINCE THE COL IS SO MUCH HIGHER IN LA AND ESPECIALLY SF ABSOLUTE DOLLAR AMOUNTS ARE MISLEADING.

    PENSIONS ARE A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR MOST INDUSTRIES AND I SUSPECT YOU WILL SEE MANY LARGE COMPANIES GO BANKRUPT TO AVOID THE CRUSHING PENSION LIABILITIES THEY HAVE INCURRED. THE CSO MUSICIANS MUST TAKE MORE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR RETIREMENT.

    • These are rather exceptional people, not just “members of the public.” While the “members of the public” may not understand why these extremely talented and dedicated musicians should earn more than some average salary, surely the readers of this blog are savvy enough to understand that the CSO musicians should be very well compensated for their labors.
      As to the pension, my reading to date indicates that the current defined benefit pension is cheaper for the board than the proposed defined contribution plan. Is my information incorrect?

  • Thanks Henry Fogel for the creating the mess of debt that is now “Symphony Center.” Oh, and you ruined the acoustic too! Nice legacy.

  • The strike will be over when management gives the CSO what they demand. The real dollar figure of being the world’s highest paid orchestra. All else is secondary.

  • I offer some thoughts about the current impasse in Chicago:

    1. The musicians of the CSO are well compensated among their peers, and better compensated in their number of weeks of paid vacation (12) than any other orchestra in the country.

    2. Anyone who has been listening to the CSO recently knows that the claim of the players that the orchestra is “the best in the country” is fiction. This is not the CSO of the 70s, that of the TIME magazine “Sine qua non” cover story. I have hear the CSO in concert several times over the last few years and many times over many decades, both in Chicago and when the orchestra has been on tour. Have I ever seen a more apathetic, bored looking group of people on stage lately? I cannot remember when. The playing was generally at a high level (apart from some rude noises from some brass players) but utterly uninspiring and uninteresting – this reflected the physical demeanor of many of the players who looked like they’d rather be doing something else. The CSO players are caught in their own echo chamber that is at odds with reality.

    3. Let’s not forget that the CSO has been hemorrhaging players at an alarming rate. It has not replaced its principal trumpet player who recently made a lateral move to the New York Philharmonic. Principal horn remains unfilled, as does assistant principal trombone (it has been several years since that vacancy occurred and an audition has never been scheduled, not because the management will not do so, but because the brass section has its own ideas about what the position should entail and who should play it). Other positions remain unfilled as well; auditions routinely end with no winner. To see the CSO these days is to see an orchestra on stage filled with extra players.

    4. CSO players sum up much of their argument by saying “We have to be paid the best to attract the best.” While all orchestras put this line out at contract time, it’s nonsense. It is not a supportable statement, no matter who is saying it. While the CSO, with its apathetic performances and infighting in various sections of the orchestra (it is no secret there is more than one section in the orchestra that has members who won’t speak to other members of their section), remains a desirable destination for talented players, both those who already have a position in other orchestras, and those looking for their first job. Players do not have self conversations that say, “Hmm, I will only audition for an orchestra that pays $165,000 or more; $160,000 just isn’t enough for me.”

    5. The CSO players continue to beat the drum that orchestras in San Francisco and LA are paid more because those orchestras pay a housing stipend above salary. The cost of living argument is lost on the CSO players who only look at dollars, not how far those dollars go. The truth is that it is the SF Symphony and LA Philharmonic have trouble luring players away from other major orchestras because they simply don’t offer a competitive money package for living in those cities. The same is true for the management of those orchestras. Try hiring someone into the marketing department in the LA Philharmonic at a low-level position. A $45,000 annual salary offer means you get to share an apartment with three other people and deal with a 2 hour commute each way. Every day. The housing market in San Francisco and LA is out of sight and it is impossible, today, for a player in those orchestras to purchase a home in the city. Impossible. In Chicago, the CSO salary vs. the cost of living is extraordinarily favorable. The argument that they must be paid more than any other orchestra in the country is a PR point the CSO musicians make that any thinking person dismisses as being not only uninformed, but truly stupid. “Give me a job that’s as bad as that” most observers say.

    6. The sense of entitlement shown by CSO players is astonishing. Every group of orchestra players postures at contract time. We’re all the best. We’re all essential to the artistic fabric of our communities. We all deserve more pay for less work. Etc. But beyond the posturing, players know that since 9/11, corporate giving has been down across the country. The halcyon days of the 80s and 90s are long gone, when the money was flowing in. The new US tax law has taken away the incentive for charitable giving; with the increased standard deduction, most people no longer itemize deductions which used to include giving to non-profit organizations like orchestras. Today’s Silicon Valley/tech money doesn’t flow to arts institutions; that crowd is interested in the “moral good” that gives them the PR buzz they want which includes building wings on hospitals, contributing to local and world hunger causes, AIDS research, etc. This is true even for the California orchestras; Silicon Valley is the great goose that COULD lay the golden egg for orchestras but it is not laying at the moment. It is not cynical to see the appointment of Esa-Pekka Salonen to San Francisco Symphony as a symbol of hope that he might be able to leverage some support for the orchestra given his connections with Silicon Valley and other technology types. We shall see, but the hope is not unreasonable, even if it may not pan out. When CSO players use overheated statements like, “If we give in to management’s proposal, the CSO will become a third rate orchestra and Chicago will become a cultural backwater,” eyes roll everywhere.

    7. The $105+ million renovation of Orchestra Hall in 1997 has not been paid off. The CSO reportedly has paid only interest on their loans; the principal remains to be paid and the creditors are knocking. CSO players say, “That’s not our problem,” but, of course, they have benefitted mightily from the renovation themselves. It IS their problem; it’s a problem for the entire Corporation from top to bottom. The truth is that giving and ticket sales has not been enough to pay off that renovation AND sustain the players’ ever increasing salary and benefit package. The players have known about this for years, and the subject has come up in previous CSO contract negotiations. This is a subtext that informs the CSO management’s position: the bills have to be paid and the money isn’t there to pay them.

    8. The pension. The last CSO contract negotiation was in 2015, and management caved after a two day strike. But they offered a caveat to the players at that time: the next negotiation would address the pension. And so it is. “Next time” is now. The players have seen this coming. ALL orchestras have seen this coming. The traditional defined benefit plan is a great plan but it is expensive to fund and recent changes in federal law require such plans to add increasingly larger amounts of money to cover future commitments. Orchestras have been shifting away from such plans for years; there are very few orchestras who still have them (including NY Philharmonic and Boston Sym) and players in THOSE orchestras are on notice that their plans will have to change in the future. Of course, a defined contribution plan is nothing to sneeze at. The latest comment from a CSO player’s representative that the planned pension change will not result in a “secure retirement for the musicians” is just posturing. Over an average 30 year career, a player would be given a tremendous sum of money to invest in financial instruments, with enough years ahead to ride out a half dozen market crashes – as well as benefit from as many market surges. Such has been the case since 9/11, when the stock market cratered, only to be followed by robust growth, only to crash again, rise again, crash again, rise again, etc. The funny thing is that the players already know exactly how such individual investing would benefit them. Most CSO players, like sensible players in any orchestra, already set aside a percentage of their salary into a self-managed 403(b) plan, This is the non-profit organization version of the 401(k) plan that forms the basis of most corporate pension plans. The difference is that the money the players put into their personal retirement nest egg at the moment is their own; it is IN ADDITION to the pension they will receive from the CSO Inc. Talk to any CSO player who has been in the orchestra for 30 years and has set aside 10-13% of weekly salary into her 403(b) plan (managed by Fidelity or the investment company of choice) and you’ll find a person who, at this moment, has a nest egg of somewhere between $600,000 to $1,000,000. True, that money will need to be taxed upon withdrawal, but it is an impressive sum, reflecting the robust historical market conditions that are available to anyone who has decades to ride the downs and ups. That person probably also already owns a home that is a major asset, and also has other savings. While the defined benefit plan is nice, the players already know how well their own personal defined contribution plan works, and were the money they were given to add to that plan increased by a payment by the Corporation, they already know that the money will grow and grow and grow.

    9. The CSO players were naive to think that this negotiation would end after another 2 day strike. Players have gotten what they have wanted for a very long time. But these days, with the artistic product suffering and the institution becoming less relevant in the community, the Board drew a line in the sand and the players knew it was coming. Wise members of the orchestra have saved their money for this rainy day. Word is it that the CSO players committee has a significant “war chest.” This money typically pays for public relations events and such, but in long strikes, it can help members with small payments. But no war chest is prepared for a siege. And it seems like the CSO situation is settling in for a long siege.

    10. The players greatly miscalculated the management’s resolve in this. They made two dramatic errors. First, they timed their strike poorly. Spring is coming in Chicago; I noticed that it was 70 degrees there yesterday after a long winter where it got to -20 degrees. People are out and about. If the CSO is not playing, they do something else. The Lyric Opera is still playing, as are shows and many other orchestras. The Grant Park Symphony season will start up in a few months. The Cubs are playing ball again (albeit poorly). The strike comes at a time when a lot of people aren’t paying attention. The players would have been better to strike before their recent Asia tour if they really wanted to force the management’s hand. Second, the players are on STRIKE. They have told the community that they are withholding their services because their current salary, vacation pay, pension, and medical insurance are not adequate. That’s a tough stance to defend to a community full of people whose lives are nothing like those of CSO players. To people who do their jobs every bit as well as CSO players do their jobs and to whom a high six figure salary and any kind of pension plan at all is illusory. The players would have been better to continue playing under the terms of the old agreement indefinitely until the management said “enough” and locked the musicians out. Then the players could have worked the sympathy card with the public, “Look, we wanted to keep playing but the management won’t let us.” Also, in a lock out, the musicians would have been eligible for unemployment benefits. Not so in a strike.

    11. What is surely a disappointment to the CSO players is how their strike is absolutely irrelevant in Chicago. Apart from a day when there’s a high profile event – Muti on the picket line or the San Francisco Symphony players giving them a donation – it’s been crickets in the Chicago media. The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have run virtually no stories on the strike. Do a search for yourself. Editorials supporting the musicians are absent. Of course there are politicians and union leaders who join the picket line from time to time. But my friends in Chicago tell me that most of the public doesn’t know – or care – about the strike. You just don’t read or hear about it in print or other media. The small number of people in Chicago who go to CSO concerts on a regular basis – numbering only several thousand – are a very small percentage of the population. With the CSO on strike, they have found other things to do. Public employee pensions in Chicago are woefully underfunded and that situation needs to be dealt with. The city is facing a huge crisis. New mayor Lori Lightfoot has some serious problems on her hands; the CSO – a private, not a public institution – is not one of them. This just isn’t a strike that affects many people. That is a bitter pill for the players to swallow but it is a bitter pill just the same.

    12. There appears to be no end game in sight for the CSO players. Management has decided – whether or not you agree with them – that there is a red line on the ground about the pension. I do not see them backing down at this point. It is easy to say the Board is greedy, or lazy, or doesn’t want to do more fund raising. Fair enough. Then YOU go and shake the bushes and raise the money to give the players what they want. He who pays the piper calls the tune. The truly sad thing in all of this is that the longer the strike goes on, the less relevant the CSO becomes to the Chicago community. As I said earlier, people are already finding other things to do. I had tickets to a recent CSO concert that got cancelled; my husband and I had planned a trip to Chicago for that purpose. With plane tickets already bought and a hotel reservation already made, we came to Chicago anyway. And we found other things to do. I didn’t see concert goers joining the picket line. Increasingly, more and more people seem to be annoyed with the players who increasingly come across as tone deaf. Just look at the comments on SD, which have dramatically turned against the players. Even CSO player trolls who post comments on SD in support of the players have diminished.

    The offer on the table looks mighty good. It might not be as good further down the road.

    -Zwischenaktmusik

    • Agree with everything stated here. I’m not sure why the musicians think as if the entire city is rallying behind them—their petition only has around ~2000 signatures, which is a minuscule percentage of the city. Their support is limited to those in the classical music bubble (and the fleeting politicians who only show up for PR), which is nothing compared to the big picture. They run the risk of alienating patrons (such as myself) as well as causing long-term damage to the institution (if it hasn’t happened already). Furthermore, their belief that they are the #1 orchestra in the world is arrogant. Yes, they can be the best if they are well-rehearsed by great, serious conductors (Maestro Muti’s concerts often show them performing at their best), but that is not to say that they are 100% always without fault. I have heard many (quite obvious) fallacies in their playing under lesser-known guest conductors, which is probably a result of laziness and lack of passion for what they do. And even if they are technically, note-for-note perfect, they sometimes lack in expressive playing. The wind section is probably the CSO’s best section today, as the brass and strings are very prone to mistakes. I remember a CSO concert in 2015 (where I was sitting right directly in front of the first violin section) that a player accidentally knocked off her score during the performance, and instead of acting professionally to quickly pick it up and continue with the piece, she started laughing and sloppily tried finding where the rest of the orchestra was at. It was incredibly disheartening to see a member of the CSO treating this incident as if it were all just a big joke.

    • Good points. A big part of the problem of the brass section are the unrealistic comparisons and expectations, to the days when Solti let them make little or no distinction between forte and triple forte. Even with all their problems in getting the personal settled, the brass play much more like a musical section now, than they have since pre-Solti days. I’m not a Solti basher, but his time ran too long with that orchestra. The effect became obvious.

      • That wasn’t really Solti’s doing. Decca turned the knobs WAY up on the brass section and we listen to those recordings and think that is how they always played. They did it with the LSO as well when Solti conducted. Everyday concerts were much more reasonable from the brass. Of course certain members went on ego trips and played way too loud but that is to be expected (sadly).

        The brass section of today has no character. They have no permanent Principal Trumpet or Horn and that is not good. The trombones are aging (the Principal must be nearly 80 years old and his tone and intonation is suffering in recent years). They need to put their egos aside and hire new players to shape a new sound. It should never take over 2 years to fill a vacancy.

        • I heard them play one one their signature pieces, Mahler 5, ‘live’ and late in Solti’s career. I was almost shocked because it sounded so awful. The entire orchestra sounded like it was at war with itself. Suddenly, in the Adagietto, there was a string section – who knew! I assure you, there were no Decca knobs there that day. Further more, Decca was probably the one label among the ‘majors’ that consistently put out a softer edged, dark hued sound. Listen to the Cleveland Vienna recordings of those times on Decca. I know what I’m saying isn’t popular and I don’t care – I also know it’s the truth.

    • Bravo. The definitive word on the matter.

      Let it be noted that there were more defenders of James Levine and Charles Dutoit on this site than there are defenders of the CSO musicians.

      Just saying.

    • Ms Zwischenaktmusik,

      You have made a very good analysis of the issues at hand. I hope the musicians read it.

      What I find so startling is the claim that the BOD is “greedy”.

      How can they be greedy if they are paying for the gap that exists between earned income and liabilities such as labor costs?

      Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

      When the weather in Chicago warms, people want to go outside. And when they go outside, they will not be helping at the picket line.

      They will be at the Lake, at Wrigley Field, and in the summer at Grant Park (it’s free and of very high quality though perhaps not “world class”).

      And yes. Recent concerts I have attended of the CSO are ones where the musicians look somewhat disinterested and disengaged. Punch the clock and go home until vacation roles along.

      I’d rather watch YouTube videos of Bernstein and the Vienna Phil at home and not be paying the $30 parking at Grant Park garage.

    • huh, mark ridenour is pretty incredible and sexy to watch play. They seemed pretty passionate to me and I just saw concerts in London, Paris and Los Angeles.

    • I agree 100%. Any time I hear this nonsense of “the best in the world” or “the best in the country,” I’d like to respond with two words: Richard Graef.
      (Anyone who has been unlucky enough to hear this flutist play in concerts knows exactly what I’m talking about). To say nothing of the individual lack of “excellence” heard at NUMEROUS chamber music performances given by these “world-class” musicians.

  • CSO musicians are killing the golden goose. Ask yourself who is better positioned to ride out a long term shutdown, the players or the ultra-wealthy members of the board. Ultimately the board likely sees this as an opportunity to restructure the organization – including fewer CSO main performances, fewer orchestral positions, and increased ‘Symphony Center Presents’ offerings and rentals. And the musicians will have to either give in, or go find some other tenured job offering a $160k+ salary. Their actions here will only do damage to the very institution they are supposedly fighting to protect.

  • After only a month, the musicians are already losing on the salary war.

    At the end of the first month of strike, a musician making $160K lost about $13,300 in salary, but she only gained from the “final best” offer (compared to the previous offer) $11,700 in 5 years. So in 5 years, she will still be down $1,600.

    Of course, further into the future, she will break even and eventually come out ahead. If the strike continues, she will have to wait even longer into the future to make up for her loss of salary now.

    The pension must really make all the difference, at the end, in 30-40 years, to be worth the loss of $13,000 per month today.

  • The CSO players should not be surprised if, now that the strike is in its fifth week and the siege may be quite long, that the management cuts off their health insurance benefits. The health insurance program is a benefit of working for the CSO and since players are on strike and therefore not working, they are not eligible for the benefits of the job. That management hasn’t cut off the health benefits already is a gift to the players. However, this is a common tactic in protracted work stoppages.

    It’s also possible that the management will deduct the weeks on strike from a player’s service record when calculating eligibility for a pension, no matter the plan. Players, of course, would have the option to pay the full premium to keep their health insurance going (with their coverage terminated, they would be eligible, under COBRA, to keep their same plan if they pay for it themselves); my guess is that premium would be somewhere between $600 to $1000 a month. The players are playing hardball by withholding services. The management may very well play hardball by withholding benefits. It’s war.

    -Zwischenaktmusik

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