The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s strike came to an end in late April, as musicians ratified a new five-year contract. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped in to assist with negotiations, bringing both sides of the negotiating table to his office for a meeting. The strike was resolved two days later.
Lasting seven weeks, the strike was the longest in the orchestra’s history. The sticking point was a proposed change to retirement benefits, moving musicians from a defined-benefit pension plan, which guarantees a set amount in retirement, to a defined-contribution plan. A compromise was reached with the new contract: Current musicians will shift to a defined-contribution plan and will be responsible for the prudent investment of their individual accounts, but the organization will guarantee that they will receive the same amount in retirement as they would have had under the previous plan. That guarantee will not be available to new musicians coming into the orchestra.
Musicians will also receive raises between 2% and 3.5% in each of the five years of the contract, bringing base salary to $181,272 by the final year. Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) member Steve Lester, bassist and chair of the negotiating committee, remarks: “After about a year of negotiations, we are victorious in our efforts by protecting and maintaining our secure retirement and gaining lost ground on our annual salaries.”