What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 4, 2016

Pittsburgh Symphony Strike

For those of you who don't already know, let me fill you in.

The musicians of the world-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are on strike:
On September 18, [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management presented what it deemed a “last, best, and final” contract offer. In that proposal, Management demands the following:
  • An immediate wage cut of 15% (from $107,239 to $91,153), with only minor increases (2% and 3%) for each of the following two years.
  • A “hard freeze” of the Musicians’ pension plan, in which all participants with less than 30 years of service would no longer accrue pension benefits and would instead be switched to a 401k plan.
  • A reduction in the Orchestra complement (presently 99 plus 2 librarians, though 3 positions are currently vacant) to some lower number that would be unilaterally determined by [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management, which would have sole discretion to decline to replace Musicians who retire or leave the Orchestra.The consequences of those cuts would be severe and immediate. Pittsburgh boasts an orchestra internationally recognized as one of the world’s best. If [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management’s proposed cuts were realized, many of the PSO’s finest Musicians will leave. The Orchestra will be unable to attract replacements of the same caliber. The reputation and stature of the Pittsburgh Symphony would forever be diminished.After receiving Management’s so-called final offer on September 18, the Musicians suggested the parties work with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“FMCS”). [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management agreed to do so; however, despite a mediation process that lasted more than ten days, and despite continued good-faith efforts by the Musicians to compromise, Management’s demands did not change at all.
Management's side, on the necessity of the strike can be found here. From the press release:
“It is extremely important to underscore that management and the Board of Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony are unwavering in our collective commitment to our orchestra’s artistic mission and to its excellence-past, present, and future. At the same time, we must squarely confront the very real financial crisis that we are facing. Throughout the negotiation process-beginning in February and ongoing-we have been doing everything possible to work toward a solution which will place the organization on the best possible path to ensure the orchestra’s future,” said Melia Tourangeau, President & CEO, who was appointed to her position in July 2015. “Our strategic plan is a five-year growth model to sustainability. The hard work and success of implementing it this year make us confident that, in that time frame, we can achieve our plan. Our most immediate challenge is that the runway is extremely short to address key financial circumstances, which is why we need the musicians of the PSO to participate in the solution.”
Not being an expert in labor negotiations, I'll leave their argument there.

On the other hand, being a musician (a politically left-leaning musician at that!), I have to go with the musicians and their union.  The PSO is a world class organization.  Cutting corners is not an option if you want to keep it that way.  Management has to find a way to keep it that way.  Balancing the budget on the backs of the musicians is not the way to do it.

In the mean time:
The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are on strike, and the symphony has canceled all its performances through Oct. 27. But the musicians' own planned series of informal Day of Music concerts will go on as scheduled [today, October 4].
 Here's the schedule:

(Click the image to see it in full, OR you might need to go here.)

I'm gonna try real hard to get to the brass at the court house.

See you at noon!

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