Days after a musicians strike began, musicians and management of the Lyric Opera of Chicago reached a contract agreement October 14. The new collective bargaining agreement extends through the 2020-2021 season. It includes a reduction in the number of main opera season weeks from 24 to 22, as well as a reduction in the number of musicians. The orchestra complement will be reduced by four musicians from 74 to 70; however, the reduction will be delayed until the 2019-2020 season.
Under the new agreement, musicians will see a 5.6% increase in weekly salary over the three-year contract term. In addition, the 2019-2020 season includes a guarantee of five additional weeks for The Ring Cycle, outside of the 22-week main opera season. The spring musical is guaranteed to employ 37 Lyric Orchestra members, with weekly salary for musicals increasing by 6.7% over the three-year contract term. There are new guarantees regarding the hiring of Lyric Orchestra musicians for Joffrey Ballet productions beginning in 2020.
Health care benefits will remain intact; family leave was equalized at eight paid weeks for maternity and paternity leave.
The previous musicians’ contract expired June 30. When management failed to offer a fair deal, Lyric musicians—members of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)—went on strike October 9, leading to the cancellation of two rehearsals and three performances. One of the rehearsals was restored and two of the performances have been rescheduled. The negotiating team bargained a long road back from management’s initial proposal of a 43% wage cut. Management’s previous offers had also proposed eliminating five orchestra positions, requiring higher health care payments, and eliminating all of Lyric’s popular radio broadcasts.
“The Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra is dedicated to providing Chicago and the world with the highest quality grand opera and is eager to work to find a positive way forward. The outpouring of public sentiment on behalf of the orchestra has inspired the musicians to persist in this ideal,” says Orchestra Committee Chair William Cernota.