Chicago strike: Talks break down

Chicago strike: Talks break down


norman lebrecht

April 17, 2019

The two sides met yesterday, reiterated fixed positions and went their separate ways. The strike is now in its seventh week.

The CSOA said: ‘The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) and the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) held a negotiation session today on a new contract for the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO).  During the session, the CFM presented a counter proposal to the Association’s last, best and final offer presented on April 7.  The CFM essentially reiterated, with very minor changes, its previous proposals, including retention of an open defined benefit plan for all current and new members, untenable wage increases and additional paid time off. The CSOA was unable to accept this proposal.  The parties have not scheduled any further sessions at this time.’

The musicians said: ‘At this afternoon’s negotiations, the Chicago Federation of Musicians offered another compromise proposal which was flatly rejected by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.  The Association restated their ‘last, best, and final’ offer and has not
budged an inch, nor shared any new path for resolution of the six-week old strike.’



  • fflambeau says:

    I think this means the whole season is pretty much gone. It’s going to be a long, long strike.

  • anon says:

    The musicians were clearly caught off guard this time, because in the past, everytime they went on strike (7 times), they got what they wanted after a very brief strike.

    What has changed?

    President of the Board, Helen Zell, wife of Sam aka “the grave dancer”.

    She’s learning at the feet of the master, plundering CSO employees’ pension plan to finance CSO’s debts.

    “Workers Pay for Debacle at Tribune

    “Mr. Zell financed much of his deal’s $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan and taking a huge tax advantage. Tribune employees ended up with equity, and now they will probably be left with very little.

    But what about those employees? They had no seat at the table when the company’s own board let Mr. Zell use part of its future pension plan in exchange for $34 a share.”

    • James says:

      I’m curious how the spouse of the Board Chair, who as far as I know has no involvement with the CSO, is relevant to this discussion. Things to ponder..

      • anon says:

        How, pray tell, did Mrs. get on the Board to begin with? From her personal fortune? (As a pianist, perhaps)

    • sam says:

      The best thing and the worst thing to happen to the CSO was the day the Zell family entered their lives.

      The best thing because thanks to his billions, the CSO enjoyed the highest salaries in the industry.

      The worst thing because he made his billions by destroying the companies he acquired.

      It was the “grave dancer’s” bargain, but the dancing had to end some time, and now it’s time to pay the piper.

      • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

        Actually he made his money from Equity Office Properties and was very shrewd as a long term investor in real estate around the country.

        The Tribune acquisition came late in his career and newspapers are in a dying industry. He got out intact but he must have found the newspaper business a lot harder than it seemed in the old days.

        Remember, the board consists of more than one person. So pounding on Helen Zell is not a smart thing. The board has many other members and if they didn’t agree with the direction being taken, then I’m sure they would pony up the dollars and get this settled.

        They (the BOD) must believe that the structural changes that they are insisting on are vital to the long term health of the CSOA.

  • Jasper says:

    I appreciate that Slipped Disc is keeping its readers apprised of developments of the CSO strike. The websites of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times reveal very little of this ongoing situation.


    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      Lots of good music right here in Chicago. No need to go up to Milwaukee to have a nice evening of classical music.

      • steve says:

        Outside of the CSO, there is no group in Chicago at the level of the Milwaukee group.

      • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

        What he’s trying to say, is that there is a world-class professsional orchestra only ninety miles to the north. This weekend they’re playing Mahler 9 under Edo de Waart, I suggest giving them a listen.

        • Old Man in the Midwest says:

          Oh really?

          So Grant Park Music Festival, Music of the Baroque, Haymarket Opera, Chicago Philharmonic, don’t play up to MSO?

          Sorry you don’t need to drive 90 miles north to hear good music performed well.

          • Bob says:

            Ummm, no they aren’t as good as the MSO… Not a controversial statement

          • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

            Music of the Baroque and Haymarket Opera are completely different from the MSO. The Chicago Philharmonic is, technically, an amateur ensemble. The Grant Park Orchestra is a summer ensemble that, indeed, has members of the MSO among its ranks.

            Don’t bring the MSO down just because you don’t feel the need to go hear them in this drought, it’s a great orchestra. Here are some of their 2017-18 concerts:


          • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

            I apologize, the Chicago Philharmonic is not an amateur ensemble. It is, however, not full time.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Meanwhile, Bartok “Concerto for Orchestra” and Mahler “Resurrection” symphony in Grand Rapids, MI

  • Dave T says:

    Add to Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, the orchestras of St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Minnesota. Music lovers in Chicago have abundant fine music, played by excellent orchestras, in beautiful halls. They are all just a few hours’ drive in lovely spring weather.

    For years folks in these cities have traveled to Chicago for the occasional concert. Chicagoans should consider the reverse.

  • Richard G says:

    The striking CSO musicians would welcome community members to join them on the picket line as an expression of support. I was told this yesterday when I spoke with some of the strikers at Symphony Center. They’re out until 8 pm on weekdays, not sure of weekend hours.

  • Chicago musician says:

    Barry, Steve, Kyle, and Bob should stop driving all over creation to hear yet another Mahler performance. Instead, fly to Europe where REAL concerts are happening. [end sarcasm]