Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians announce strike as contract talks fail

SHARE Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians announce strike as contract talks fail

Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the CSO’s first performance of William Schuman’s Symphony No. 9 (Le fosse Ardeatine). Feb. 2, 2019. | © Todd Rosenberg 2019

Stop the music: Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra announced Sunday night that they are on strike.

The players, represented by the Chicago Federation of Musicians, claim that management wants to reduce pension benefits. This comes as the CSO has seen consistently rising ticket sales and donations since 2013, the union also says.

CSO execs said Sunday night they were “disappointed” by the decision to strike after 11 months of negotiations. A statement from Helen Zell, board chair of the governing Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, said it was the responsibility of the board members to ensure the “financial well-being” of the orchestra by updating the pension and compensation package.

Members of the union voted in February to authorize a strike if a deal for a new three-year contract wasn’t reached by Sunday.


Strike by CSO musicians leads to concert cancelations through March 16

Starting Monday, performances will be suspended and all 100-plus musicians will walk out, the union said in a statement. Picket lines will form 8 a.m. Monday across the doors of Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue and remain until 8 p.m.

The union says that management wants to cut benefits, including vacation time and pension contributions, and shift investment risk to the 106 full-time members of the orchestra.

CSOA President Jeff Alexander wrote in a Friday letter to musicians that management’s offer “increases your wages, improves your working conditions, preserves your earned retirement benefit … and maintains your excellent contact.”

Last week, CSO music director Riccardo Muti sided with the people on stage and released a letter to CSO leaders recommending “giving the musicians the recognition they deserve.

“I hope that the Board [of Trustees] will remember that theirs is not a job but a mission, and that tranquility and serenity will be given for the artists to do their work,” Muti wrote.

CSO spokeswoman Eileen Chambers said that concerts this week were still scheduled to happen. She was not sure when ticket-holders would be told if they were canceled.

Chambers said negotiations were expected to continue throughout the week.

“We’re taking it a day at a time, all of us,” Chambers said.

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