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September 21, 2023IM -
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s musicians boarded buses bound for a scheduled North Carolina performance tour “under protest,” despite what Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA) leaders called stalled contract talks, according to a union statement.
The orchestra’s performances at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are the musicians’ first since their contract expired September 10. They took a vote in August to strike if talks were derailed.
It’s an extreme gesture of goodwill, according to the union officials. In their statement, orchestra musicians of Local 77 say they had given Philadelphia Orchestra-Kimmel Center Inc. management their assurance they would not strike this week’s tour “out of respect for the orchestra’s hosts in North Carolina.”
“We want to show our positive feelings about the group, but at the same time it’s difficult to work without knowing what the future is,” says Paul Arnold, a violinist for 41 years.
Before departing on tour, the union accused management of not bargaining in good faith on the demand for increased pay for full-time and substitute musicians, pay equity, pension contributions, and cost-of-living adjustments for inflation.
While musicians made sacrifices and took pay cuts totaling $4.6 million to buoy the ensemble through the pandemic, the union claims that CEO Matias Tarnopolsky’s income nearly doubled.
“This goodwill can’t last forever without management coming to the table with a good proposal,” says Local 77 President Ellen Trainer.
In its last proposal, “Management presented a parental leave policy that’s worse than the existing policy,” according to a union statement. Negotiators say management further added “an absurd, draconian code of conduct that would discipline musicians for almost anything—including criticizing or voicing concern about orchestra management or the direction of the ensemble—giving management extreme control over these professionals.”
“This contract is about prioritizing the essential musical talent that makes Philadelphia’s Orchestra the best in the world. The CEO’s 111% pay bump proves that the money is there,” Trainer says. “To pay Philadelphia’s world-class musicians fairly—now it’s a question of priorities.”
Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra demonstrate their solidarity in Local 77 t-shirts at a press conference on September 19, prior to boarding buses for a two-day performance tour at the University of North Carolina.