After Arduous Strike, Chicago Symphony Wins New Contract

LA Phil 2nd violinist Kristine Whitson (center) joined members of the striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the picket line.

After seven weeks on strike, the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra voted unanimously on April 27, 2019 to ratify a new five-year contract, ending the longest strike in the orchestra’s history.

“Great thanks to the thousands of friends who attended concerts, wrote letters, signed petitions, picketed, came to the picket line and more,” the orchestra posted on its Facebook page. “Your support and Mayor Emanuel’s leadership made this agreement possible.”

The agreement includes a 13.25% increase in salary and protects their guaranteed retirement benefits, with no increases to the cost of musician health benefits. The new agreement preserves guaranteed minimum retirement benefits for current musicians and commits the parties to study options for providing retirement security for new hires.

“The musicians were humbled to receive and are so appreciative of the overwhelming support from people throughout Chicago and around the world,” said Cynthia Yeh, percussionist and member of the negotiating committee.

“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,” said Steve Lester, bassist and chair of the musicians negotiating committee. “The musicians voted overwhelmingly for a fair and competitive compensation and retirement benefit plan that will ensure the excellence and sustainability of one of the finest orchestras in the world. And thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his involvement. The musicians are looking forward at last to performing once again at Symphony Center before the world’s best audience.”


ICSOM CALL TO ACTION Raises $200,000 for Striking Chicago Symphony Musicians

The International Conference of Symnphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) issued a CALL TO ACTION on April 8, and immediately musicians of the San Francisco Symphony responded generously with a lead donation of $15,000 for their colleagues in the CSO. In the two weeks that followed, the $200,000 mark has been swiftly reached by the generous donations of ICSOM’s member orchestras and unions, including a $1,000 contribution by AFM Local 47.

This recent CALL TO ACTION also reaches another important milestone, as now over $2 million has been raised and issued to orchestras in ICSOM CALLS TO ACTION since its inception in 2007.

“It has been deeply gratifying to see the speedy response of our member orchestras to our colleagues in peril at the CSO,” said Meredith Snow, ICSOM Chairperson and member of AFM Local 47. “Our musicians clearly understand that what happens in Chicago affects us all and have thus responded generously with this collective action.”

In a statement, ICSOM shared: “It is essential that the musicians of ICSOM respond whenever and wherever our members are in need. It is through our united network of orchestras that we can effectively articulate to our managements that a move against one of us is a move against all of us. The unity and generosity of all ICSOM musicians, along with our brothers and sisters in the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) and the Theater Musicians Association (TMA), and throughout the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), have been an inspiration to our members and a cautionary tale to our managements. The support of our ICSOM orchestras in these Calls to Action has been extraordinary and makes a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow musicians.”