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Home » Officer Columns » Fort Worth Musicians on Strike!

Fort Worth Musicians on Strike!

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

For the last few years, I’ve taken great pleasure in announcing at each AFM and symphonic player conference that there currently are no ongoing symphony orchestra strikes or lockouts within the AFM. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. On Thursday, September 8, 2016, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Professional Musicians’ Association, Local 72-147, sent out a press release stating: “Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Call Strike.” This came after management made a last, best, and final offer and indicated they would be implementing it Monday, September 12.

In 2010, the musicians accepted cuts amounting to 13.5%. Nevertheless, management now is insisting on further cuts. AFM President Ray Hair and I flew to Ft. Worth September 9 to meet with the Orchestra Committee and Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams over the weekend. At the meeting, the Orchestra Committee indicated that musicians were resolute in their decision not to accept further cuts.

After the meeting, we attended a large rally on the steps of the iconic Tarrant County Courthouse in support of the striking musicians. This was my address to the rally attendees:

It is an honor to be standing with you today in support of the musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in our fight for justice, dignity, and respect. Symphonic musicians bring a lifetime of preparation to their work. Most musicians have studied music from early childhood. To reach the skill level needed to win an audition in a major symphony orchestra, musicians make an enormous investment of time and money in their education. In addition to paying for music lessons and a conservatory education, musicians must purchase at least one, and often several, professional-quality instruments costing well into six figures for string instruments. By the time a musician gets to the orchestra audition, anywhere from half a million to a million dollars could easily be invested in their education and instrument(s).

Who would consider making such an investment, if they knew that having reached the pinnacle of achievement in their profession, they would continually be asked for concessionary cuts? But when asked in the 2010 contract negotiations to do just that, the musicians agreed to a 13.5% reduction in pay with the expectation that the time between negotiations would be used to fix the situation. But here we are again being asked for cuts once more. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Musicians come to work every day, putting forth 100% effort to perform their job at the highest possible skill level. This effort comes from an internal expectation they have for themselves, because recreating the works of the great masters takes extreme effort and maximum concentration.

By creating beautiful music, symphonic musicians uplift the communities where they live and work. In a world filled with violence and unspeakable evil, musicians provide a beacon of hope to the world, reminding us of our humanity and how beautiful life can be.

But musicians have real, everyday, basic needs just like everyone else. They need to provide food for their families and pay their rent or mortgage on time, so they have a decent place to live. They need to pay the bills for heat, electricity, doctor visits, and medicine. They need to be able to buy school supplies for their children and save for their children’s education. These needs are real and cannot be met with continued cuts and concessions at work. So I call upon every one of you who believes that symphonic music plays an important role in maintaining a city’s vibrancy and in the power of music to inspire and improve our lives and communities to speak out in support of your Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians who give so much of themselves to bring you the music that makes life worth living.

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