Well, the CSO strike is over and while it lasted about 48 hours we only missed one concert. Our committee had met all day with the management/trustee team on Saturday and had hoped to reach a resolution, but it was not to be so we did not play the concert. However, on Monday they met again and after some very intense negotiations an agreement was reached. For those readers who are not familiar with the collective bargaining process, we have an elected committee of 9 musicians who represent us to management, and of these 9 there were 5 on our negotiating team. Typically a contract is 3 or 4 years long, with this new one being a three-year deal. So we go through these anxious times every few years. This was only the second strike I have seen here. In 1991 we were on strike for two and a half weeks after the negotiations broke down over health care costs, an issue that is still prevalent today. And both strikes were resolved by compromise where an agreement is reached that everyone can live with. In our new contract our health care costs will go up, but we will also get a slight pay increase.
Maestro Muti made an interesting comment at the first rehearsal after the new contract was ratified. He said this strike was unsettling to him because in Italy when the musicians go on strike they are going against the government. In our case the strike was essentially under one roof. He thanked us for coming to a quick resolution, saying that “the world needs you.” And I certainly agree with him!
This process has made me aware that as musicians we need to do a better job of communicating to our board just what we do and what our role in the community is. Board members do a great deal for a symphony orchestra but they do not always understand how difficult our jobs are. Similarly we don’t always understand how hard it is in our current economy to raise money for an orchestra. No symphony that I know of funds itself 100% through ticket sales. Rather, it is a combination of tickets, annual giving, corporate sponsorship, and endowment that keeps an orchestra going. I am not criticizing our board or the musicians, only saying that with better communication we will have smoother negotiations in the future.
And now it’s time to get back to doing what we do best: making great music!