Orchestra Musicians Strike

Orchestra Musicians Strike

Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 10, 2016

The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony went on strike Sept. 30.  The musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony went on strike Sept. 8.  Philadelphia resolved its strike within a few days.

The issues: (1) Musicians object to salary and other cuts that, in their view, diminish artistic quality, and (2) Management maintains that financial cuts are essential to the orchestra's future existence.  Both sides claim the other view represents the slippery slope to an inferior cultural institution. [Photo: furtseff/Shutterstock.com]

Conversation Starter

What is at risk when orchestra musicians strike?  If the same issues arise repeatedly among American orchestras, how can management and musicians anticipate the conflict and avoid depriving the audiences?

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Anonymous
on 2017-03-30T06:34:24+00:00
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Recent Activity

Jacqueline Gerber
on Dec 09, 2016
"The backstory on the settlement of the Fort Worth Symphony strike."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Dec 06, 2016
"After a three-month strike, the Fort Worth Symphony strike is tentatively settled, with a..."
Donna Ernst
on Nov 29, 2016
"It is my understanding that many if not most Cleveland Orchestra members have other jobs that..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 28, 2016
"Thanks, Kevin. Certainly arts organizations in NE Ohio are in a different funding posture than..."
Kevin Cronin
on Nov 25, 2016
"Musians and orchestra management benefit from stability. Growth can be plotted and shared. To..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 25, 2016
"The Pittsburgh strike has concluded. Fort Worth's continues...."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 23, 2016
"An end to the Pittsburgh strike may occur soon, according to this article."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 22, 2016
"Well put and sensible. Perhaps it should be a letter to the editor to a newspaper in Pittsburgh..."
Angela Mitchell
on Nov 16, 2016
"The strike drags on...  "
Paul Bunker
on Nov 15, 2016
"As someone who has managed symphony orchestras and engaged in collective bargaining with musician..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 14, 2016
"Fundraising during a strike? Does the orchestra have a choice? The link sets out the conflict. "
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 14, 2016
"Agreed. Sounds like a good topic for a cultural panel discussion."
Dave  Kanzeg
on Oct 29, 2016
"Re community acceptance, it has puzzled me that art museums generally don't suffer from as much..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 26, 2016
"Administrators have special burdens when concerts are cancelled. A score of Fort Worth concerts..."
Jenny Northern
on Oct 25, 2016
"Sorry Handel.  "Messiah" won't be heard in Fort Worth this December. Sorry Ella Fitzgerald. ..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 24, 2016
"Mr. Teachout, a former bass player, cites supply and demand and the relative position of..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 22, 2016
"Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal analyzes the current orchestra strikes by citing ..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 18, 2016
"The few Letters to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the strike set out the usual..."
Jenny Northern
on Oct 17, 2016
"Pittsburgh has announced that concerts have been cancelled through November 18.  Looks like this..."
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 13, 2016
"Well put on the community support issue. It's the large cities with notable resident orchestras..."

Jacqueline Gerber

Jacqueline Gerber - 2017-03-30T06:34:24+00:00 - "The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony went on strike Sept. 30.  The..."

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Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Dec 09, 2016 - 7:50 am

The backstory on the settlement of the Fort Worth Symphony strike.

 
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Dec 06, 2016 - 7:50 am

After a three-month strike, the Fort Worth Symphony strike is tentatively settled, with a ratification vote scheduled for tomorrow. Concerts were previously cancelled through the end of the year. Was there any lasting damage? Did anyone care?

 
Donna Ernst
on Nov 29, 2016 - 9:39 am

It is my understanding that many if not most Cleveland Orchestra members have other jobs that supplement their generous salary.  I am offended when a fund-raiser calls and asks me to contribute to support someone who earns twice as much as I do.  With their side jobs they probably make three times what I do.  

 
Kevin Cronin
on Nov 25, 2016 - 9:51 am

Musians and orchestra management benefit from stability. Growth can be plotted and shared. To contribute to stability and demonstrate the concept that the Orchestra, specifically, and arts, generally, contribute significantly to NE Ohio, Cuyahoga county voters agreed to tax themselves to create and arts and culture fund, from which the Orchestra benefits significantly.  Public patience would be very short in NE Ohio, in the event of a performance schedule interruption, after constributing significantly to the orchestra. If all the county fund did was lift the Orchestra to create the same dispute and disagreement, just at a higher income level, public frustration could risk future voter support. Through the fund, taxpayers became arts partners. No partner likes to see other partners squabbling about money, particularly if they are expected to just sit back and wait, but keep the taxpayer funds rolling in.  

 

Responses(1)

Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 28, 2016

Thanks, Kevin. Certainly arts organizations in NE Ohio are in a different funding posture than other orchestras. Fort Worth's orchestra is still on strike, so we'll have to see how long that continues.

 
Expand This Thread
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 25, 2016 - 8:55 am

The Pittsburgh strike has concluded. Fort Worth's continues....

 
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 23, 2016 - 4:06 pm

An end to the Pittsburgh strike may occur soon, according to this article.

 
Angela Mitchell
on Nov 16, 2016 - 1:54 pm

The strike drags on...

 

 
Paul Bunker
on Nov 15, 2016 - 1:58 pm

As someone who has managed symphony orchestras and engaged in collective bargaining with musician unions, I can say that management and musiciians both have credible positions regarding artistic quality and financial sustainability.  Musicians do not enjoy going on strike, they do it when they feel frustrated and bit hopeless about their future as a professional musician.  Management does everything it can to avoid a strike, which weakens the institution and angers the public.  The way to avoid this conflict is through a consistent, honest and accurate exchange of information between musicians and management.  When this is not done, distrust and suspicion of wrongdoing on both sides grows and poisons the water, so to speak.  The majority of symphony orchestras in this country avoid labor strikes, the ones that have the strikes get all the publicity.  It is an amazingly solid and established art form, which has sustained operation through a sea-change of societal and electronic changes.  Quite impressive by any measure.  These current strikes will get resolved, someone just needs to blink.

 

 

Responses(1)

Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 22, 2016

Well put and sensible. Perhaps it should be a letter to the editor to a newspaper in Pittsburgh or Fort Worth. Thank you for your contribution to the conversation.

 

 
Expand This Thread
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 14, 2016 - 3:02 pm

Fundraising during a strike? Does the orchestra have a choice? The link sets out the conflict. 

 
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 26, 2016 - 4:18 pm

Administrators have special burdens when concerts are cancelled. A score of Fort Worth concerts are officially off the schedule unless an agreement is reached. Click on the link for details.

 
Jenny Northern
on Oct 25, 2016 - 4:18 pm

Sorry Handel.  "Messiah" won't be heard in Fort Worth this December.

Sorry Ella Fitzgerald.  Your tribute concert has been cancelled, too. 

 
Jacqueline Gerber
From the Moderator: Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 24, 2016 - 1:14 pm

Mr. Teachout, a former bass player, cites supply and demand and the relative position of classical in the nation's culture in his analysis of musicians vs. management. He also cites examples from the days when playing in the Cleveland Orchestra was a part-time gig.

 
Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 22, 2016 - 10:17 am

Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal analyzes the current orchestra strikes by citing  Cleveland Orchestra history which may surprise you. Here's the link:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-money-pit-1476912194

 
Jenny Northern
on Oct 17, 2016 - 2:56 pm

Pittsburgh has announced that concerts have been cancelled through November 18.  Looks like this could continue for a while. 

 

Responses(1)

Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 18, 2016

The few Letters to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the strike set out the usual positions, in which one side is dismayed at the statements and actions of the other. Nothing new.  However, if one person in every family in Pittsburgh had a job with the orchestra and was now on strike, wouldn't the voices raised in favor of resolution be loud and insistent?   

 
Expand This Thread
Dave  Kanzeg
on Oct 11, 2016 - 6:32 pm

Taking steps to open up to its community (ala what the CleveOrch has recently done with its neighborhood residencies and youth initiatives) is a big part of the "community support" calculus. Cost-cutting and budget frugality is also essential.  But these must be maintained year-after-year, and must be made demonstrably clear to the whole community. My impression is that the Philadelphia Orchextra has tried some "outreach" measures, but has appeared to embrace them largely as stop-gap steps to avoid corporate bankruptcy rather than as long-term audience-development plans.  Their administrative compensation levels seem excessive in that light. And their move to the Kimmel Center appears to have been ill-advised. I know less about the Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth situations.  in any event, the issue of maintaining world-class ensembles in places where they aren't genuinely integral to the city's self-image will continue to be problematic in the absence of public funding and sincere corporate sponsorship.  

 

 

 

Responses(3)

Jacqueline Gerber
on Oct 13, 2016

Well put on the community support issue. It's the large cities with notable resident orchestras that have varying degrees of enthusiasm about this approach.  In smaller markets, the orchestras tend to be freelancers, sometimes from other cities. That doesn't affect the level of performance, but the marketing people have to work that much harder to work the players into the community and invite acceptance from the locals. At least, that was my experience on the prairie.

 
Dave  Kanzeg
on Oct 29, 2016

Re community acceptance, it has puzzled me that art museums generally don't suffer from as much community disconnect as orchestras, especially among millennials and twenty somethings.  Somehow embracing ancient and modern painting, sculpture and film seem like an easier sell than ancient and modern orchestral sounds.

 
Jacqueline Gerber
on Nov 14, 2016

Agreed.

Sounds like a good topic for a cultural panel discussion.

 
Expand This Thread