Chicago Symphony: Final offer hits the table

Statement from the CSOA:

Contract negotiating sessions between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) and the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) resumed Friday, April 5 and continued through Sunday, April 7. The CSOA presented its last, best and final offer to the CFM late Sunday afternoon and the union is considering the offer.

Statement from the musicians:
After weekend-long negotiations, the Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s negotiating committee will present results of the
talks to the membership tonight. Results of the meeting will be available at the conclusion of the meeting.

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  • The strike has gone far too long! If they do not take this offer, then I’m afraid that the rest of the season might be canceled, which was also an option on the table when Lyric Opera went on strike a couple of months ago (which basically prompted the Lyric musicians to accept the offer…).

  • There is no such thing as a final offer. I am a professor of labor law in the US. The employer always remains statutorily obligated to bargain. This is just rhetoric.

    • Nevertheless, employers do stop negotiating at times — or perhaps “pause” is a better word — even if just to say “we need two weeks to consider your latest proposal. See you then.”

      I agree, last/ best/ final offer is a standard negotiating term. I’ve seen it in almost every contract negotiation that either of my orchestras has been involved in.

      So it’s not an official stop to negotiations, but it does ensure that the misery will be prolonged by at least however long they say. Probably a ploy by whichever side feels they are in the stronger position; the quicker you respond, the more desperate you look.

    • There are final offers. A few years ago the Hartford Symphony musicians got a final offer and it was really final. If the musicians had not taken a 30% pay cut the orchestra would have been shut down.

    • Yes that is correct!

      People do not understand that part of labor law.

      This isn’t Godfather IV

    • They said: “last, best, and final offer”

      There are 3 conditionals: “last”, “best” and “final”, in other words, there could be other “last” offers and other “final” offers, but they just won’t be the “best” offer.

      There is no statutory obligation for the employer to offer the “best” offer ever again.

      • Yes they can back track

        They just have to show an intent to settle in some form or another

        Let’s dance!

  • Rhetoric of not, it’s really time for the musicians to face reality. Their demand to keep their defined pension benefit has gone far enough. It’s pretty clear that the CSOA will not give in to this particular demand. Enough with this endless back and forth. The CSOA had already presented a good contract…though the raise should have been higher. And now, it’s presumably become a better offer. But, at this point, even an amazing raise won’t make up for the loss of salary over this past month. (I am well-versed on the details of the offer, so please no comments that I don’t know or understand what’s on the table.) Objectively-speaking, the math points to the players having an equal or better pension on the CSOA’s pension plan proposal. This fight is now purely philosophical in nature. The problem is that all those directly impacted by the strike are suffering real consequences. At this rate, the players are risking losing the rest of the season – that means many more months of lost salary! Not to mention the real damage that is being done to their relationship with both the public and the management. I’m sorry, but life is sometimes about having to face uncertainties, changes, and hurdles…you may not like it, but you do have to know when to accept it and learn to adapt, if you’re going to survive. Someone needs to remind the players of this basic life lesson. At this point, it looks like the players are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

    • Given the relative cost of living in the Chicago area as opposed to the east coast or left coast, what arguments are there for your statement, “the raise should have been higher”? Can such raises truly be afforded? I’m just asking. I’d like some proof of that. And while we’re at it, tell that statement to a retail or service worker who seldom sees a raise and deals with the ungrateful masses on a daily basis, except those raises occasional mandated by law (cost of living increases to the minimum pay). Also, explain it to people living in cardboard boxes under bridges, or just sleeping in doorways. Surely those people will sleep more soundly, knowing that key members of the CSO won’t go take an audition somewhere else.

      • Of course that’s not a popular posting, I didn’t mean it to be popular. Thing about the juxtaposition of these extreme realities though. Are YOU going to lose sleep, knowing somebody from the CSO took an audition somewhere else, or decided to become a chamber music player because a hundred-something thousand per year isn’t enough money?

      • Well, barry… The specific ”proof” of my higher raise comment is this: the CSOA’s initial 3-year contract proposal included a 5% total raise…1% for the first year, 2% for the second year, and 2% for the third year. That amount isn’t enough to cover the cost of living increase/inflation over the next several years. So, when you consider that, it’s tantamount to a pay cut for the players. Don’t misinterpret what I stated. I didn’t say that the CSO players should have the highest orchestral salary in the US. I fully understand that the cost of living is higher on both coasts. But, these coastal orchestras are truly NOT the same caliber as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And yes, a higher salary CAN be afforded by the CSOA – the president of the orchestra already acknowledged as much to the public.

        With respect to your comments comparing the CSO salary to that of minimum-wage workers and people who live under bridges or in doorways, your argument is as ignorant as it is asinine. That’s all I’ll say about that.

        The fact of the matter is that these musicians are world class; they are truly unique in their talents and abilities; they have worked tirelessly to achieve their success; and they are at the very top of their field. Worldwide. As such, they should expect a competitive salary for what they do. My comments were meant to point out that the players are now fighting a losing battle over the pension issue and that they should accept an equally good replacement of that pension… especially considering that they have already lost a good chunk of their salary during the strike.

    • Reality is what’s collectively bargained. The CSO musicians will decide whether the latest proposed “reality” is acceptable to them. Your comments about facing uncertainties etc. apply equally to the association as to the musicians.

  • oh stop showing a photo of Muti, he showed up once on the picket line, you’d think he was on strike, and losing pay, he’s not, his salary is contractually guaranteed even as the orchestra members are losing theirs, and on his down time, he’s conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and others, he has nothing at stake here

  • But his greatest crime against music is that he is boring

    And humanity suffers as a result

    • Muti is nothing but boring. He is a great conductor. Your British sense of privilege is showing through. And who is still left in London, by the way? Part of your kind of attitude has been a long-standing hostility to Southern Europe but Britain’s days of dominance are long over. Brexit has exposed the U.K.

  • Muti boring, hmmmm ….. almost all his performances sell out, which means something, some of us find him very interesting indeed! I would love to be at Baden-Baden for his upcoming Verdi Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic, but alas, sold out as are his performances at Salzburg.

  • Who cares about this last/best/final business? It’s just rhetoric.

    First, if they keep up with this ridiculous strike, they’ll only prove their irrelevance. As it is, the average person cannot afford to attend their concerts and won’t miss them for very long. They’re betting on a lot more than defined benefits/pensions!

    Second, pensions?! Can we talk about pensions? What is this? 1950? Are they forgetting basic math? Or do they all live in Indiana and are unaware of how well the State of Illinois is doing because of Madigan and his pensions! A 401K is better for all involved.

    Which makes me wonder if any of these people have families? Or are they married to their instruments? No judgment, except that my understanding has been that pensions can’t really be left to family members or loved-ones. Only a spouse can receive funds, but even then it’s typically half the amount. All the dollars and cents in a 401K can be left to your beloved. Pensions are definitely not worth something to fight over.

    I’m also left wondering if the players actually care about making music? Isn’t a love of music supposed to be fueling them? Or is this purely a mercenary endeavor?

  • The “last, best and final offer” has been rejected.
    The musicians appear to be using Bernie Ecclestone’s tactic of being 100% willing to reject any negotiation, if you don’t get everything you want out of it.
    I wish them well, but I predict a very long strike.

  • It would be nice to know the details of the offer and if it is a real improvement or just for show. I think the strike continues.

  • So many comments vilify the musicians or characterize them as foolish and out of touch, while so few indicate a real understanding of what these people are, represent, and are really after.
    In American orchestras, like in the U.S. itself, the expectation is that money=status=quality. In order to remain in their rather important position at or near the top of the business, the CSO musicians are prepared to put their foot down and demand better than what they have been offered.
    My sense is that they are doing this not only for their own immediate or future benefit, but in order to ensure that the CSO will continue to attract top talent, and not have it siphoned away by LA, SF, NY, or any other orchestra.
    These musicians are incredibly dedicated and hard-working, and value their position at the top of their field. To suggest that they are clueless and wrong-headed is truly to misunderstand what they are about.

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