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Home » Orchestra News » Knoxville Symphony Musicians Get Personal with Management During Bargaining Session

Knoxville Symphony Musicians Get Personal with Management During Bargaining Session


by Jeffery Whaley, Secretary-Treasurer, Local 546 (Knoxville, TN)

Members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, along with Local 546 (Knoxville, TN) leaders, returned to the bargaining table with orchestra management on December 18, 2019. In an escalation of concerted action, the musicians’ negotiating team brought with them rank-and-file musicians (wearing “Musicians of the Knoxville Symphony” t-shirts) to tell management their personal stories about how working conditions in the KSO affect their lives and livelihoods. Orchestra management heard many narratives, including written statements and an audio recording by out-of-town musicians who could not attend. These stories illustrated the fact that union proposals come from very real musician concerns, and they served as a powerful display of solidarity.

This negotiation is in many ways a continuation of the negotiation that was closed in February 2018. The musicians of the Knoxville Symphony have been playing on an expired contract since September 1, 2019, as they continue to resist decreasing the size of the orchestra core, to seek better contract terms for per-service musicians (many of whom have a long and uncompensated commute), and to assert the need for wages that adequately reflect the cost of living in our rapidly growing city. 

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra musicians attended a bargaining session in which they told orchestra management how working conditions in the KSO affect musicians’ lives and livelihoods.

The organizing efforts have been the result of several years of work along with tremendous support from AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD), specifically SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick and Negotiator/Organizer/Educator Todd Jelen. During the 2017-2018 season, the musicians leafletted several performances and collected donations from a number of patrons and supporters that was used to fund the t-shirts worn by union members at the December 18 negotiating session.

In January 2019, Skolnick held an on-site training for the Local 546 board and elected leadership from the Knoxville Symphony. This training has proven invaluable as we continue our ongoing efforts to best represent the needs of our members. We encourage you to follow our efforts and show your support at

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