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March 1, 2019IM -
On February 13, musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), represented by Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) voted to authorize a strike beginning March 10, if negotiations for a new contract are not complete. Contract talks began 11 months ago, with management seeking concessions in pension benefits, health care, and salary. A major sticking point is management’s desire to eliminate the musicians’ defined benefit pension plan, which has been in place for nearly 50 years, and move to a defined contribution plan.
CSO has run deficits for the past eight fiscal years—but the organization’s financial position has seen improvement, with ticket sales rising by $1.1 million for the 2017-2018 season. Musicians believe that management’s insistence on a concessionary contract is the result of a debt related to the orchestra’s venue.
“Management is trying to squeeze us to pay their bond debt for a rehab of Symphony Center costing more than $100 million,” says CSO principal percussionist Cynthia Yeh of Local 10-208. “We know that when people refer to the CSO they mean the musicians, our maestro, and the music—not the building (completed in 1997), however lovely it is. And it is for this—the music and musicians, the heart of the CSO—that we are willing to strike to protect.”