If you had tickets to the local symphony tomorrow night, time to make other plans. Some 100 musicians of the Grammy-winning SF Symphony walked off the stage today (so to speak) to protest their prolonged and unsuccessful wage negotiations with symphony management.
David Gaudry, the chair of the musicians' negotiating committee, noted that "management is seeking a contract that will not even allow us to keep up with the cost of living, while cutting our retirement."
Adding insult to injury, Gaudry explains, the management has also rewarded itself with really nice bonuses and expanded programming, and then announced it will pursue a $500 million renovation of Davies Hall.
The symphony's next performance, slated for tomorrow at 2 p.m, has been cancelled due to the work stoppage. In a statement released today, the SF Symphony noted that its musicians were among the three highest-paid orchestras in the country, and that their union had rejected a three-year contract that would have paid a yearly salary of $141,700 while increasing it to $144,560 by the end of the contract. The proposal also offered 10 weeks paid vacation, paid sick leave, and health care.
However, the SF Symphony admits it has struggled to meet musician demands over health care and pensions. The proposed contract increases the age at which a musician can begin receiving pension, and alters the current health care plan -- although the statement emphasized that there is no monthly contribution for musicians to their health care plan.
While the proposed salary sounds pretty damn nice to us reporters, Gaudry notes that the other two highest-paid symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, are located in cities where it costs significantly less to rent an apartment. Between the paycheck-eating cost of living in S.F. and their recent Grammy win, the orchestra musicians feel they deserve much more than they are getting.
The stalemate make the symphony vulnerable; other orchestras could start hiring away their talent. In a letter to management, the musicians wrote, "Next season we are losing a world-class timpanist, David Herbert, to Chicago, which would be like the San Francisco Giants losing Buster Posey to the Dodgers."
The SF Symphony is apparently confident that it will reach a resolution with its orchestra soon -- the scheduled performances over the weekend have not been canceled. The musicians are also hopeful they'll return to work before March 19 when they will tour the East Coast with stops at venerable venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
So don't yet consider this their swan song.