Musicians Union Local 6, which represents musicians in the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), announced on March 13 that it was on strike.
As one of the world’s leading orchestras, SFS has won awards including fifteen Grammys and an Emmy. Known for frequent tours across the country, the orchestra had an East Coast tour planned for this spring that has now been canceled.
According to the Sacramento Bee, SFS musicians make the third highest salaries for orchestra members in the nation. The average section player earns $141,000 yearly with ten weeks of paid vacation, sick leave, health care and a pension.
However, conflict has arisen after a deficit in last year’s budget. The players are striking over new contract offers that include a wage freeze in 2013.
As the Wall Street Journal wrote on March 24, this is “the latest in a string of labor disputes at U.S. orchestras, whose finances have been hit by slowing attendance and the recession’s aftermath.” According to Musician’s Negotiating Committee chairperson Dave Gaudry, however, SFS Executive Director Brent Assink has received a 34% pay increase over the past two years.
Additionally, musicians claim that management has been unwilling to work with them. According to a statement by Principal Timpanist David Herbert, who resigned from the orchestra on March 16, “I have… encountered only a negative attitude [from management] with little or no attempts at problem solving.”
Both the musicians and management have said they are willing to compromise. Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gaudry said, “We’ve been extremely flexible and it wouldn’t be far to go to reach something that the orchestra would accept.”
Similarly, Assink noted that “both parties have made progress, and have indicated an interest in continuing the conversation.”
Despite these words, however, negotiations have stalled and the musicians cannot perform the amazing repertoire they had prepared for tour.