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Chicago Symphony Orchestra rejects latest offer from musicians; strike to go on

Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra strike in front of Symphony Hall on March 12. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra rejected its musicians’ latest contract offer Tuesday, continuing a strike that began five weeks ago.

The meeting was the first between the CSO Association, which manages the orchestra, and the Chicago Federation of Musicians since the musicians rejected a contract offer April 8 that the CSOA called its “last, best and final offer.”

“At this afternoon’s negotiations, the Chicago Federation of Musicians offered another compromise proposal which was flatly rejected by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association,” Steve Lester, bassist and chair of the CSO Musicians, wrote in a statement. “The Association restated their ‘last, best, and final’ offer and has not budged an inch, nor shared any new path for resolution.”

The main sticking points in the labor dispute have been salary increases and a proposed switch from a traditional pension to a defined-contribution retirement plan. The orchestra’s musicians went on strike March 11.

The CSOA said in a statement that it was “unable” to accept its musicians’ proposal because it only had “minor changes” from previous versions. The proposal included “untenable” wage increases, additional paid time off and retention of a traditional pension plan, CSOA said.

The CSO has canceled performances through April 23. The two sides have not yet scheduled any additional bargaining sessions.